The Colorado Springs City Council might formally oppose a Nov. 6 ballot initiative that would require governments to pay landowners if new laws or regulations reduce their property values.
But not all council members agree, and some question whether the council should take a stance on such issues. They’ll vote Tuesday.
Amendment 74, which calls for “just compensation” for affected landowners, is too vague, council members said. Mayor John Suthers, former state attorney general, said it could create a “litigation nightmare” for the city.
“This ballot measure has the potential to hamstring this council,” said President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler. “I can see it stopping all affordable housing projects and redevelopment in our city.”
Councilman Don Knight said the amendment isn’t all bad, and it might force the council and staff to better consider the consequences of their land-use decisions.
“Poorly written? Yes. But in some ways it’s forcing us to do our job and follow what’s written in city code,” Knight said.
Governments and organizations across the state have spoken against Amendment 74 and its broad language.
Gaebler said the resolution’s language comes from a template written by the nonprofit Colorado Municipal League.
Citing a recent example, Suthers said Broadmoor Bluffs residents might be justified in filing a claim against the city over The Ridge, a contentious affordable housing project near Colorado 115 and South Academy Boulevard.
In May, the council denied those residents’ appeal to halt the project.
“You could probably make the case that an affordable housing unit 10 blocks from your house may impact the fair market value of your house,” Suthers said. “Is that person going to have a claim against the state or the city? Under this language, I think they would.”
Ultimately, those claims could cost Colorado Springs residents, Councilman Andy Pico said.
“Those are your municipal or county taxes that are going to be siphoned off, not to pay for cops and firefighters,” Pico said. “It’s going to cancel the 100 cops. They’re going to hire 50 lawyers who are then going to litigate every piece of this thing.”
Pico also questioned whether it is appropriate for the council to weigh in on partisan issues.
Councilman Tom Strand echoed that doubt, saying if the council approves the resolution, “our constituents will say, ‘Here’s the government looking after the government again.’”
That could backfire and result in more votes for Amendment 74, Strand said.
Suthers is expected to address the council Tuesday, and Strand said he is eager to hear what the mayor has to say.
Strand also said he is considering a motion to postpone the resolution indefinitely, which would effectively kill the local legislation.
Instead of a formal resolution, Knight proposed a letter opposing Amendment 74, which could be signed by all willing council members.