by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
Summit County is in the process of rescinding a 25-year-old conservation easement to pave the way for a housing development, a move opposed by land trusts across the state. Technically, that means the county will condemn the easement, just as it might condemn a piece of property needed for a road. The commissioners claim this easement stands in the way of public progress, so they will simply take it, presumably with the constitutionally required “just compensation” to the easement’s owner, Colorado Open Lands.
Keep It Colorado is a coalition of more than 30 state land trusts in Colorado. Its executive director, Melissa Daruna, was quoted saying her members “never want to see condemnation.” Perhaps they fear the snowball might become an avalanche, since there are roughly 4,000 conservation easements in Colorado.
The details of this easement are not especially unique. Residents of a development called Bill’s Ranch worked in the early 1990s to preserve a six-acre parcel, situated between the County Commons and Bill’s Ranch. Summit County has owned the land since 1992; it was part of a 96-acre land exchange with Arapahoe National Forest. Some of that land was developed for the Community and Senior Center, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, and Ophir Mountain Village, intended as affordable workforce housing.