Eminent domain is the right of a government to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation. The owner suffering the taking is entitled to be made whole.
At El Rancho, a developer intends to build on private land along Highway 40. He simultaneously seeks to annex about three adjacent acres of publicly-owned land through rezoning. As presently proposed, he would remove the taxpayer-and community-funded built assets currently sited on that annexed land. This is eminent domain in reverse.
This wedge of state highway land, bounded by Highway 40, Highway 74 and I-70, has been the site of Foothills Fire’s Rainbow Hills station for nearly 50 years and of the Alpine Rescue Team for more than 30. At the corner with Highway 40 is the RTD Park-n-Ride lot, installed as part of the $10.4 million Evergreen Parkway interchange completed in 1994. The public Rainbow Hill Road that serves these facilities and a CDOT maintenance yard was reengineered during that project. This road also connects Highway 40 to the Genesee Bike Path, completed by CDOT in 2016 for $2.4 million, to form the final link in a regional bike route.
The proposed annexation of this land would displace, fragment, and diminish our centrally located, convenient and accessible community assets.
The location of our fire station is virtually ideal according to the guidelines of the U.S. Fire Administration. Emergency services were sited there long before this area was developed, precisely because the site was the best location in this part of its district. It was last re-built in 2009 with funding from tax revenue and private philanthropy. Why should the public now tolerate its proposed demolition and relocation to a demonstrably problematic site?
Historically, before we had a dedicated, grade-separated, lighted and accessible RTD Park-n-Ride lot, carpoolers and commuters parked on the side of the road, in informal spaces, or across the street at the El Rancho restaurant. The development proposes razing this well-used lot and replacing it with 11 fewer spaces alongside the adjacent road, distant from the intersection. Why should the safety and functionality we have already built and enjoy now be reversed?
Rather than building a private access road, the developer would appropriate the public Rainbow Hill Road, creating a permanent, quarter-mile detour. Residential users would collectively travel thousands of additional vehicle miles each month, and the utility of this route to cyclists would be compromised. Because it would be a public road through the private development, taxpayers would fund its maintenance in perpetuity. Why should the public’s benefit be diminished while the public’s burden is increased?
Why should the public accept these outcomes so that one individual can build another commercial property next to the private land already zoned for that use? A common refrain throughout this proposal process has been that this would come at no cost to taxpayers. To the contrary, the proposed annexation of this land for private use would squander the high-quality investments the public has already made. The community would receive inferior substitutions and involuntarily absorb the long-term costs of this taking. The public would not be made whole.