Dec. 30th at 4:00 pm the city council met to consider Ordinance 54 on second reading. Mayor Cernanec introduced the Ordinance and opened the public hearing. After the public hearing was closed, council member Brinkman moved, “Shall the Littleton City Charter be amended so that the use of eminent domain and condemnation in an urban renewal plan by the Littleton City Council be prohibited except at the request of a property owner?” Her motion was seconded and passed on a 5/2 vote.
But wait. Ordinances have to be passed on two readings and Brinkman’s motion was not a motion to approve the Ordinance on second reading. She made a new and original motion for a new ballot question as her language was different than the language in Ordinance 54, Section 2. So did they really pass the Ordinance on second reading? Not according to our City Charter Sec. 40 that states that the ordinance may be amended before the final approval by the council. But this did not happen.
Now here’s the interesting thing about their ballot question. What they are saying is that there can be no condemnation of property without the owner’s request. If a public utility needs a right of way or easement of some sort from a property owner for an urban renewal project and the property owner does not want to give it to him does that mean that the urban renewal project dies?
Eminent Domain is a big deal – if you were here in the 1980’s you will remember Riverfront. That urban renewal plan said they did not intend to use condemnation and eminent domain but they condemned the entire area. The four plans that have been approved already, by a majority of this council, have the full force of eminent domain provided to the LIFT board. Passing the ballot question that the council has decided to put on the ballot will do nothing to change what they have already passed.
But you might be thinking that they passed Resolution 75 saying they would not approve any urban renewal plans that used eminent domain except when requested by the property owner. You remember correctly but apparently certain council members don’t because they ignored their own resolution and passed four plans without any limitations on the use of condemnation or eminent domain.
If the council can violate the Charter and certify to amend the City Charter without a second reading then they can certainly violate the Charter when it comes to eminent domain.
All that being said, if there are two questions on the ballot – Vote Yes on both as they do not contradict one another. The question brought forth by 3, 926 voters of Littleton will not only require voter approval for the use of eminent domain but will also require voter approval for the diversion of tax dollars from the schools, parks, county, and the city itself for 25 plus years.
Submitted by Carol Brzeczek