Opinion | Letter: Opposing Amendment 74 for the health of our rivers
I oppose Amendment 74 and respectfully request that you vote “no” on this ballot measure in November. If Amendment 74 passes, it will obstruct our ability to make local decisions, while reducing government services and increasing taxes. Many of the tools we use to protect our local rivers and streams will be at risk as well.
Under the current Colorado Constitution, a property owner has the right to seek compensation from state or local governments for any property taken. Amendment 74 expands this well-established concept by requiring the government – i.e., the taxpayers – to compensate private property owners if a state or local government law or regulation “reduces” the “fair market value” of their property.
While this language may appear harmless, Amendment 74 would severely limit local governments from making decisions without taxpayers bearing significant costs from property owners suing in response. In such an environment, government would have difficulty accomplishing even its most basic functions.
To highlight one area of concern, Amendment 74 could threaten our ability to protect our rivers and stream from development pressures. Grand County’s zoning regulations require new development be designed to protect water quality and riparian habitat in nearby streams and rivers, ensure public safety when development is built on steep slopes or floodplains, and minimize the negative impact of humans on wildlife and their habitat.
If Amendment 74 passes, developers could claim that these requirements reduce the fair market value of their property. Because the language of Amendment 74 is so broad, we do not know how such claims would be resolved—except that the answer may take years and significant taxpayer investment as the case winds through court.
Environmental protection may be just one casualty of Amendment 74. Every local decision which focuses on zoning, land use, liquor, marijuana and other forms of licensing, ordinance enforcement to protect public safety, affordable housing initiatives, prohibitions of undesirable uses such as an adult entertainment business in a neighborhood, or right to farm ordinances all will be subject to attack.
As a county commissioner, my primary responsibility is to serve you and to protect your health, safety, and welfare. Our local government should be able to exercise this duty without the constant threat of costly litigation that undermines the quality of life and economic health of our communities. This Amendment has far too many unintended consequences.
Vote “No” on Amendment 74.
Richard Cimino, Grand County
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