Can one Colorado city claim land belonging to another? State appeals court hears arguments in Lafayette-Erie dispute

“An unprecedented legal scuffle between a pair of Colorado communities that centers on whether one municipality can condemn and claim land belonging to its neighbor went before the Colorado Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

The arguments before the three-judge panel came after Lafayette failed in its effort last year to convince a judge that it should be allowed to condemn 22 acres at the southeast corner of U.S. 287 and Arapahoe Road — inside Erie’s borders — for the purpose of creating an open space separation between its Beacon Hill neighborhood and a planned retail development at that corner.

The district judge ruled that Lafayette had not proven that the condemnation, which the city put into motion in the summer of 2016 through a lawsuit, was for a proper public purpose — as is required by the state’s eminent domain laws. The case was dismissed, prompting Lafayette’s appeal.

“Lafayette is trying to create some space,” Stephanie Ceccato, an attorney for the city of nearly 30,000 people 11 miles east of Boulder, told the appeals court Tuesday.

Ceccato said Lafayette has already amassed 1,300 acres of open space on its borders to provide a natural buffer between the city and neighboring communities — to create a “sense of separation, a sense of place.”

“All they are doing is continuing with that,” she said of Lafayette city leaders, who nearly two years ago passed an ordinance authorizing condemnation of the property owned by Erie’s urban renewal authority.

The Colorado Supreme Court a decade ago affirmed the right of a home-rule city to condemn land beyond its boundaries for the purpose of creating open space and parks — a ruling spurred by Telluride’s efforts in 2008 to conserve from development a 570-acre meadow framing the entrance to the picturesque mountain town. But an eminent domain fight in the name of creating open space involving two competing municipalities had yet to arise in Colorado.”
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Aguilar, John. Denver Post 20 March 2018.