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Toll road and water bills protecting property owners

The Colorado House Transportation and Energy Committee held hearings last month on House Bill 1068 ñ Rep. Marsha Looperís bill to modify current toll road law. The committee gave Looper a one-week extension to narrow the billís scope.The bill now tackles two problems: clouded titles and timelines.Looper said regulations require toll road companies to file a map with the county clerk of each county where a toll road is expected. The county clerks must then make the map available to the public. However, some county clerks, including El Paso County, have interpreted ìfile a mapî to mean they should record the toll road notice on each parcel within a certain distance of the proposed toll road. For example, the notice of the toll road was recorded on every parcel within the three-mile corridor affected by the proposed Prairie Falcon Parkway Express.ìThese notices have clouded the title of every parcel within the corridor in El Paso County, preventing property from being sold because banks wonít lend on parcels with a clouded title,î Looper said. HB 1068 corrects this problem by directing county clerks to remove the notices from individual parcels. It also provides immunity to county clerks, title companies and toll road companies so that property owners cannot sue them for having clouded the titles in the first place.ìTestimony from the toll road company and their subcontractor indicated that under current law, the toll road company feels that have a right in perpetuity to the land within a corridor,î Looper said. HB 1068 establishes timelines. Within 18 months of filing the articles of incorporation, the toll road company must start designing, planning and obtaining environmental impact reports. The bill also calls for the company to invest a minimum of $500,000 in the project and start the preconstruction work.Plus, the bill states the toll road companies must submit annual reports documenting their progress to the Colorado Department of Transportation. In turn, CDOT must make the reports available to the public by posting them on its Web site.HB 1068 also requires toll road companies to begin actual construction within seven years of filing their articles of incorporation. If court proceedings delay construction, HB 1068 allows the company to obtain an extension from CDOT providing the company can demonstrate it has expended at least $5 million on the project. If no progress is made within seven years, HB 1068 requires the company to abandon the project.Looper said she is aware that HB 1068 is not a total solution, but itís what could be accomplished at this time. She said she believes that Coloradoís 1880 toll road law is unconstitutional, and she is seeking a law firm that will file suit, on a pro bono basis, to overturn the law.The House Transportation and Energy Committee unanimously approved the revised version of HB 1068. If passed, the bill will move on to the Senate, with Ken Gordon of Denver as its sponsor.Looper also introduced HB 1165 to the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Services Committee. The bill requires that every residential sale contract state the water source for the property. Looper said the information is often provided in the sellersí property disclosure; however, it can be ommitted without penalty and is often overlooked if it is included.According to the bill, if the source is a well, the disclosure statement must include a copy of the well permit, the well depth, the aquifer and its anticipated life. The bill also specifies that the purchaser shall have no claim for relief against the seller for damages that result from an inadequate water source.The plight of 90 homeowners in Rancho Colorado, a development near Ft. Carson prompted Looper to introduce the bill. The developer promised homeowners they could connect to his water pipeline, but now that part of the development has been sold to the federal government as a buffer between the development and Ft. Carson, homeowners fear the pipeline will never be extended to their parcels. They currently truck in their own water or have it delivered.ìThe bill wonít help the residents of Ranch Colorado,î Looper said. ìBut I hope it will prevent future problems like this.îHB 1156 received its third reading in the House on Feb. 14 and passed unanimously. It was heard and passed by the Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology Affairs Committee on Mar. 7. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

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