Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Land swap appraisal meeting coming soon

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 3:20 PM

click to enlarge A winter view of Strawberry Fields. - JIM VAN HOY
  • Jim Van Hoy
  • A winter view of Strawberry Fields.
When will we get to see the appraisals of property involved in the city's land swap with The Broadmoor? One way or another, maybe pretty soon.

City Council has scheduled a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, May 9, titled "Town Hall – Proposed Land Exchange Appraisals," to take place in Council chambers at 107 N. Nevada Ave.

Still, it's anyone's guess whether we'll actually see the appraisals themselves.

A little background:

On March 31, the Independent submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for all the appraisals for property involved in the swap, which includes a controversial proposal to trade the city's 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor.

We asked for the appraisals the day after the March 30 public meeting at Gold Camp Elementary School, where the city had said it would disclose the appraisals but did not. Rather, the city revealed the appraised prices, which showed the city's property valued at roughly $2.2 million, compared to The Broadmoor's trail easements, nine acres of residentially zoned property and rugged forest at $3.6 million. (The Broadmoor would claim the difference as a donation for tax purposes, according to a proposed resolution due for City Council consideration on May 24.)

On April 1, one day after submitting our request, the city responded — lightning speed for the city in responding to such requests. Usually officials take the full three days allowed by law and often extend their response time to 10 days, which also is allowed by law for complicated requests.

That April 1 response denied the request and cited this portion of CORA:
(2) (a) The custodian may deny the right of inspection of the following records, unless otherwise provided by law, on the ground that disclosure to the applicant would be contrary to the public interest:
(IV) The contents of real estate appraisals made for the state or a political subdivision thereof relative to the acquisition of property or any interest in property for public use, until such time as title to the property or property interest has passed to the state or political subdivision; except that the contents of such appraisal shall be available to the owner of the property, if a condemning authority determines that it intends to acquire said property as provided in section 38-1-121, C.R.S., relating to eminent domain proceedings, but, in any case, the contents of such appraisal shall be available to the owner under this section no later than one year after the condemning authority receives said appraisal; and except as provided by the Colorado rules of civil procedure. If condemnation proceedings are instituted to acquire any such property, any owner of such property who has received the contents of any appraisal pursuant to this section shall, upon receipt thereof, make available to said state or political subdivision a copy of the contents of any appraisal which the owner has obtained relative to the proposed acquisition of the property.
That set off a round of protests from opponents of the swap, who say they don't trust the values of the city and The Broadmoor appraisals. (The Broadmoor hired its own appraiser to value its parcels.)

The city quickly hired a firm to conduct an appraisal review to determine if the appraisals are credible. The review will not re-appraise the properties.

Last week, opponents hired attorney Bill Louis to file a lawsuit against the city to challenge its withholding of the appraisals. A hearing for that is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, May 6 in District Court.

And now the city has scheduled the aforementioned town hall meeting about the appraisals. If the judge rules Friday that the appraisals must be released, will the city release them publicly that day? Perhaps the city won't dispute the matter and hand them over forthwith.

Or will the city adhere to its own timeline and discuss the appraisals Monday?

Only time will tell. Meantime, read this week's edition of the Indy, online and on newsstands tomorrow, for another chapter in the land swap saga.

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