Welton Corridor plan before Denver City Council: An opening for eminent domain?
Tonight, Denver City Council will vote on a plan to redevelop the Welton Corridor -- and some property owners in the area fear that if it passes, it will allow the city to seize their homes and businesses. But the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, the entity behind the proposal, argues that those concerns are misguided, saying the plan doesn't actually authorize eminent domain.
DURA is urging city council to approve its plan as groundwork for a long-term redevelopment of the region, which includes the historic Five Points neighborhood. DURA believes a favorable city council vote would be a way of acknowledging that the area is blighted, a requirement for urban renewal projects like this one, even as it endorses a range of objectives, including historic preservation, plus business and housing revitalization.
Welton Corridor Conditions Study Map of proposed Welton Corridor Urban Redevelopment area
This proposed area is approximately 85 acres, located immediately northeast of downtown Denver and centered around Welton Street. (The boundaries of the designated area are Broadway on the west, Glenarm Place and 24th Avenue on the south, Downing Street on the east and California Street on the north end).
One particular clause in the plan, however, has some property owners in the neighborhood concerned. It reads:
The Authority may acquire property through the use of its statutory power of eminent domain in accordance with all applicable statutory requirements only after the City Council approves, after a public hearing, the use of such powers for the related Project.
Lynne Bruning, who owns about 18,000 square feet in the area and has been located there for seventeen years, has been leading an effort to encourage the city council to vote down the proposal.
Here's a video of her plea.
She argues that the plan contradicts a Colorado House Bill that she says protects property owners from land condemnation for economic development or tax revenue enhancement. Here's a passage from that legislation:
If the condemnation action involves a taking for the eradication of blight, the bill requires the condemning entity to demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that the taking of the property is for a public use. This bill also precludes the taking of private property for transfer to a private entity for the purpose of economic development or tax revenue enhancement.
Eminent domain allows governments to seize private property for a public good if they provide just compensation to the landowners.
Bruning says it's clear to her that this latest effort would take away property owners' protections against this kind of land seizure.
"There is a time and a place for eminent domain, I understand that," says Bruning, a textile artist who has a live-work setup at her property in the redevelopment zone. "But what this proposal actually does is violate...[the] house bill."
She adds, "If we can stop the city council from...approving it...then there isn't a legal battle.... We're trying to stop it before it becomes a legal problem."
Continue reading for DURA's response to the property owner's concerns and for the full redevelopment plan before Denver City Council.