Colorado Citizens for Property Rights
by Ari Armstrong, August 18, 2005
Ric Miller has been involved with property-rights issues for about five years. "More important than anything is eminent domain," which threatens property rights, he said at an August 17 organizational meeting for Colorado Citizens for Property Rights (CCPR) held in Arvada. Miller is the acting treasurer of the group. He said, "To take somebody else's rights is just so un-American, it just kind of rubs you the wrong way... Don't come condemning us."
Marsha Looper, the acting chair, organized the meeting. She and Miller (shown in the photo) worked to pass two bills through the last legislative session to protect property rights: Senate Bill 230 and House Bill 1342. In a follow-up interview, Looper said that, while both bills passed the legislature late in the session, Governor Bill Owens vetoed them.
230 "restricted a private toll-road from condemning private property," Looper said, while 1342 set standards for toll-road construction regarding issues such as notification of property owners in the area and limits on the delays between filing for a toll road and beginning construction. Looper said the Front Range Toll Road Company, which wants to build the so-called "Super Slab," filed paperwork some twenty years ago, and people purchased property in the area without knowing about the proposed toll road.
However, Looper added, a hostile bill, 1030, was killed when some 1,500 citizens, the "largest [group] ever in the history of the Capitol" according to Looper, opposed the bill at a hearing by the Senate's Transportation Committee. Looper said that bill would have made the condemnation and forced redistribution of property even easier.
Looper has been active with the Eastern Plains Citizen's Coalition. She hopes CCPR will become a state-wide organization with regional affiliates.
Acting State Treasurer Mark Hillman also attended the meeting. He offered "anything I can do to help out, since I think property rights are probably the most fundamental aspect of our liberty."
A participant said, "The rumor is, they want to convert my property to a series of fast-food restaurants." Several members of the crowd were concerned about their own property, and all were interested in protecting property rights for all Coloradans. Ralph Shnelvar, an activist from Boulder (who offered me a ride to the meeting) said, "The Kelo decision from the Supreme Court really upset me, and that's why I'm here."
Looper said the "idea is a Property Owner's Bill of Rights." Hillman suggested a coalition could be formed to bring in people from both left and right. Miller noted the widespread national disgust with the Kelo decision and said, "We need to carry on that momentum."
Looper said the new organization is still developing its mission statement and goals. She wants to support legislation based on the bills vetoed this year. She may also push a ballot initiative in 2006.
Looper wrote two main goals on a marker board. She says the wording is still a work in progress. 1. Private companies should not have condemnation rights. 2. Government should not have the right to condemn for profit companies.
Looper said that, while eminent domain is sometimes necessary, it has become abusive. She's not against roads or toll-roads, but she wants to make sure they're build the right way. "We say when they're going to take people's property, there has to be the same set of standards" as currently apply to state roads, she said. She noted that E-470 was built with private funds but subject to public hearings. She worries that, without tight restrictions, toll-road companies will be able to seize property near the roads and transfer it to other businesses.
One participant said, "This is a very basic human right." Looper said that forcibly transferring property to, for instance, "a big-box store just because they can generate higher taxes, that's morally wrong."