Three court cases in Colorado that will impact you, your property value, and your quality of life
In the last month there have been 3 major precedent setting rulings that will have far reaching impacts throughout Colorado. Each case has substantial impacts on property owners. The three major rulings concern the ski safety act, local bans on fracking, and a challenge to the clean water act.
First, the ski safety act. The Colorado supreme court recently released an important ruling on how far the ski safety act can shield resorts from liability. A win or a loss could mean millions of dollars in possible liability to ski resorts and could drastically alter their profitability and ultimately the ski towns they operate in. What happened?
Second, the issue of local control over oil and gas regulations. There have been many cities that have passed moratoriums or bans on fracking. This occurred because many new homes were being built and then suddenly a drill rig was sited next to them (or vice versa) enraging land owners and mineral owners alike. The supreme court ruled on this issue and the impact will be far reaching for land and mineral owners. What happened? Is the fight over?
Finally, there was a major challenge at the US supreme court regarding the reach of the clean water act. What happened in the case and how can this impact property owners that might be impacted by the clean water act?
Ski safety act: This was an interesting case that basically asked the question whether an inbounds avalanche was an inherent risk of skiing. What is the impact? This ruling could have huge impacts on any ski town within the state. The stakes are high since ski resorts basically have immunity to lawsuits as a result of the ski safety act. Piercing this immunity would be devastating for ski towns throughout the state. The supreme court heard the strongest challenge to the ski safety act in decades. Basically a person at Winterpark was killed in an inbounds avalanche and the parents wanted to sue the resort since an avalanche in the resort should not be an “inherent risk” of skiing. The Colorado supreme court ruled that an inbounds avalanche is an inherent risk of skiing effectively banning the resorts from being held liable for the accident. This was a big win for the resort industry in Colorado. The full article:
Local control over oil and gas: can local cities ban fracking? This was another interesting case that impacts property owners throughout the state. In Colorado mineral and surface rights are bifurcated; this basically means that one person might own the mineral rights (below surface) and someone else owns the surface property rights. Inevitably this will create conflict since most people do not want a drill rig next to their house when they are not getting compensated for the minerals being extracted since someone else owns them. As a result, many cities have put in place ordinances that effectively ban the use of hydraulic fracking in certain areas. The Colorado supreme court ruled on this issue and sided with the gas industry that state law preempts ordinances passed by cities/counties. This was a win for the oil and gas industry but could be short lived since a ballot initiative is underway that would ban oil and gas activity within 2500 feet of a house, waterway, building, park, etc… effectively placing a large swath of drilling sites off limit through the state. As the front range population continues to expand more and more conflict between surface rights and mineral right owners will be inevitable. The battle between the two is just beginning.
Clean water act: There was a recent ruling that could have far reaching implications. The federal clean water act basically states what can and cannot be done on property that could impact a navigable water. There has been some guidance where the Obama administration has classified more areas that are now covered by the clean water act. The recent ruling basically says that “landowners can go straight to court after federal regulators decide that a piece of property containing wetlands is covered by the Clean Water Act.” Basically this gives property owners a tool to fight the government via court on whether their property is covered by the clean water act.
Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending. Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in the Colorado Real Estate Journal, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.