Colorado Eminent Domain Laws
Colorado eminent domain laws can be found in Title 38 of Colorado revised statutes. C.R.S. 38-1-101 prescribes the state procedures for condemning property in Colorado. The condemning authority must act in good faith for a proper purpose and the taking of the property must be for a public purpose. The owner of the property must be given fair compensation after due process. The fair market value of the property taken is determined by a commission of impartial landowners or a jury, at the landowner’s option.
Pursuant to C.R.S. 38-1-121, the condemning authorities shall issue a notice of intent of taking to all persons with an interest in the property before initiating a condemnation lawsuit. The notice must specify that the landowner has a right to obtain an appraisal at the condemning authority’s expense, if the estimated value of land is over $5,000. The condemning authority must pay the reasonable costs of such an appraisal. The owner of the property has 90 days to obtain such an appraisal, at which time both appraisals are exchanged. The exchange of appraisals typically provides the context for serious good faith negotiations. If no agreement can be reached, the condemning authority must tender a final written offer. A complaint shall be filed in court only after completion of the appraisal process.
If the parties don’t agree and settlement is not a option, the condemning authority shall serve the owner with a summons and complaint and file the complaint in court[i]. The owner is entitled to choose between a jury and a commission of impartial landowners to determine the value of the property being taken. The number of jurors is between 6 and 12 and the number of commissioners is no less than three[ii]. The owner is entitled to issue subpoenas and discovery before trial. At trial the owner may call witnesses, including expert witnesses, and cross examine the condemning authority’s witnesses. The owner may also appeal.
If the condemning authority does not have the proper authority to go forth with the condemnation, the landowner is awarded attorney’s fees. The condemning authority can take possession of the property before a trial either by agreement or after a contested hearing. The immediate possession hearing cannot take place until at least 30 days after service of the summons and complaint.
The condemning authority must deposit an amount equal to the value of the property assigned by the court. The owner of the property may withdraw 75% of the amount of the value assigned by the condemning authority at the hearing on immediate possession.
The value of the property is the market value as of the date of the taking[iii]. Where only part of a parcel of property is taken, the condemning authority must also compensate the landowners for damages to the remaining property in certain circumstances.
[i] C.R.S. 38-1-102.
[ii] C.R.S. 38-1-106.
[iii] C.R.S. 38-1-114.