Neighborhood Group Points Out Misleading Ballot Initiative: Warns Not to Sign Proposed Colorado Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Amendment

A nonprofit group representing neighborhood groups impacted by residential drilling is warning that the title for a proposed state ballot initiative is misleading and is warning residents not to sign it.  Canvassers are currently collecting signatures for the “Colorado Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Amendment.” Although the title may sound like it is beneficial to all property owners, it is written to compensate ranchers, farmers, and other mineral or property owners who would lose money if a local government hinders or impedes oil and gas drilling in any way.

According to a statement by the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans (LOGIC), the major concern with this ballot initiative is that the “wording is so general that it would bring a slew of lawsuits against local government if any of their regulations could possibly result in a decrease in property value.” Since it would be a constitutional amendment once it is passed, it could not be changed except by another ballot initiative.  In fact, it appears from additional information that the current measures are meant to negate Initiative #97, to establish minimum setback distance requirements which will likely be on the November ballot.     

There Are Six Versions of the Proposed Amendment

Each of these six versions seeks to expand a foundational part of the Colorado Constitution. Colo. Const. art. II.15 states “Private property shall not be taken or damaged, for public or private use, without just compensation.” The six proposed measures would seek to expand takings laws and regulations.

  • Each of these measures would require the government (applicable to both state and local government entities) to compensate the owner for virtually any decrease in fair market value traceable to the regulation.
  • Second, each of these propositions essentially would require Colorado government entities to compensate anybody who “suffered any burden” as a result of any Colorado government regulation and that that compensation should be borne by the public.
  • Third, these measures adjust the definition of property “damage” from “government activities on adjacent or abutting property” to “any regulatory intrusion upon prior allowed uses.”
  • Finally, the initiatives would make zoning and land use at both the state and local level impractical as everyone would have a right to be compensated for previously unrestricted uses that they had no intention of engaging in anyway.

On a practical level, these initiatives would/could pre-empt the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from any further rulemaking and local governments would practically be unable to enact any further regulations that might impede uses of any property such as planning and zoning.

Additional Information 

Below is information from the website Ballotpedia about the proposed initiative. It appears the proponents are testing the language for six versions to see which one may get the most signatures. They are numbered 108-113.

“This initiative was designed to amend the state constitution to require that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations.”

“Multiple versions of this initiative were filed. Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau and one of the sponsors of this initiative, said that it was submitted as a response to proposed setback requirements for new oil and gas development, including fracking. An initiative, Initiative #97, to establish minimum distance requirements for new oil and gas projects from occupied structures and certain bodies of water was filed on January 5, 2018, also targeting the November 2018 ballot.”

“The initiatives were filed by Chad Vorthmann, executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, and Michelle Smith, an Elbert, Colorado, farmer.”

“Vorthmann said, ‘These measures are about protecting Colorado’s farmers and ranchers from extremist attempts to enforce random setback requirements for oil and natural gas development. While these setbacks may on their face sound reasonable, they would essentially eliminate oil and natural gas development in Colorado and strip away Colorado landowners’ right to use their land the way they wish. This is about protecting the Colorado way of life. Because taking private property is not the Colorado way.” Speaking of royalties from mineral rights, Vorthmanns said, “These are checks that make a real impact. This is money that helps them through their lean years. It helps them put their kids through college. It guarantees they can make ends meet.’”

“Smith said,’Mineral rights make all the difference to our small organic-based farm. Like many Colorado farm-to-table businesses, if we can’t offset operating costs with our minerals, then we’re out of business.’”