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Roads, schools, firehouses. These are proper uses of eminent domain, in most cases. The taking (with fair compensation) of private land for public use. But for “open space?”

That’s what Andy Barrie and his wife were going through trying to keep their little piece of “heaven” in Summit County, Colo., outside of Breckenridge.
Two years ago, Barrie and his wife Ceil bought two pieces of land, one with a home in a subdivision and one that is accessible only by an old mining road and is surrounded by national forest land. It includes an old cabin, an outhouse and an old gold mine.
The problem started when the Forest Service warned them against using a utility vehicle to drive from their home to their cabin. The Barries argued that they never went “off-road,” but the feds said the mining road wasn’t an official “road.” So the Barries petitioned the county to declare the mining road an official county road.
Instead of granting their wish, however, the county turned around and said they wanted to buy the property and preserve it as “open space.” The Barries refused. Then Summit County pulled a fast one.
The previous owner apparently remodeled the old mining cabin without the proper permits. So the county commissioners condemned the property and filed to take their property under eminent domain.
After putting up a valiant fight, they finally gave up and sold their land for $115,000 this week. The Barries said the mediation judge told them they didn’t have much of a chance.
“The judge, who was the mediator, basically told us, ‘You’re fighting Summit County, in the Summit County Courthouse with a Summit County jury and a Summit County judge that has to be re-elected by Summit County voters in November, you’re not going to win’,” said Ceil Barrie.
It’s very rare for governments to use their eminent domain power to create open space or parkland.
“It’s not that you can’t do it, but they don’t do it much,” said Dana Berliner, who was co-counsel in the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case upholding the constitutionality of eminent domain. “There’s typically other ways of doing open space than just taking land.”
But in Colorado, where picturesque mountain towns are bursting with tourists and second-home-owners, and outdoor recreation is the state religion, there have been a few instances of cities deciding to confiscate land to preserve it. 

By   via DownTrend



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