Friday, February 16, 2007

"When it started showing up on title searches last August, it was worse than anyone could have imagined."

Toll-road law hurting land value, citizens say

Bill would alter what passed in 2006


By Joey Bunch
Denver Post
Copyright 2007

State Rep. Marsha Looper outlined a bill Thursday that would clear up "unintended consequences" of a toll-road law passed last year.

But the attorney for the 210-mile Prairie Falcon Parkway Express said opponents are just trying to bury the proposal in red tape.

"If the intent is just to do away with this private toll road, that's fine; let's just be honest about that," David Foster told the House Transportation and Energy Committee on Thursday.

Looper's bill is badly written, with undefined terms, conflicts and vague assertions that would only lead to legal gridlock, he told the panel.

"This is a field day for lawyers," he said.

A longtime opponent of the toll road, Looper, R-Calhan, said disclosures about the proposed road on property titles in the 3-mile corridor, as mandated by a new law, are depressing property values. Opponents fought for that requirement last year.

Dozens of residents who own property that could be in the road's path did not get a chance to address the committee Thursday, as time ran out on the hearing. Chairwoman Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, promised another hearing soon for them to voice their concerns.

"We didn't anticipate that this would be the effect on property values," said Bob Hoban, attorney for a group of toll-road opponents who worked on last year's legislation. "When it started showing up on title searches last August, it was worse than anyone could have imagined."

Bob Coan of Keenesburg dropped his $100,000 asking price for 14 acres by $20,000 in August. He said the price decrease was because of the road.

"That's reality," he said.

The effect has been felt by clients from Nunn to Wellington, as well, said Realtor Lou Kinzli.

"People say, 'Why would I want to buy property right next to a highway?"' he said.

The remedy, however, would put tough requirements on any private toll-road proposals.

Foremost, a toll-road company would have 120 days after its formation to submit a development plan, including financing, to the state Department of Transportation. If the plan is rejected, the project's backers cannot reapply for five years.

Developers also must have a purchase agreement on 85 percent of the land before they could ask the state to condemn any other property.

"There is no investor who is going to take that kind of risk on this kind of project," Foster told the panel.

Staff writer Joey Bunch can be reached at 303-954-1174 or

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