Church eminent domain case in Colorado

Church eminent domain case in Colorado

Kevin Jones reports on the case of a Colorado city trying to take a Catholic parish’s property by eminent domain to use as a parking lot for a new library. It looks like when negotiations for a mutually beneficial deal for the land fell through the city of Arvada decided to go the eminent domain route. I’m not sure, but it looks like the land is already a parking lot and the church was going to allow it to be used by library patrons. Meanwhile, the library property has an adjacent lot that is currently used, but the city says it’s set aside for future housing.

I initially approached this case with agnosticism. I like libraries, after all. However, there are several oddities which have swayed me against the city council. The government had enough foresight to allocate land for future housing, yet apparently it did not have enough competence to secure parking for a library which has been under construction and planning for several years. The imminent opening of the library ensures these decisions will not be made with due deliberation.

Further, there seems to have been a surfeit of bad information. One of my relatives, an employee of the county library system, thought the land deal had been settled for months. Yet not too long ago the parish pastor announced in the bulletin that announcements of any settlement were incorrect. City Manager Mr. Kocian’s words about a good-faith verbal agreement seem to be simple hearsay, insinuating bad faith when there is no corroborating proof that any deal with the proper church authority was even reached. ... Missing in most of the coverage is the fact that the parking lot and land services not only the parish but the parochial elementary school. I worry for the future of the school if it should lose its closest parking spaces and any space for future expansion. The streets could also become prohibitively crowded during popular holy days, weddings or funerals.

A summary of the case is here. Perhaps if this turns into a legal dispute, the parish could turn to the Becket Fund or similar public-interest law firms who will take on cases defending the rights of religious groups.

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