A Church Without A View

The government can’t take your property without just compensation, but, the Colorado Supreme Court held today, it can take away your public visibility, without compensation or due process, because a property owner in Colorado does not have a right to advertising visibility. 

The case involved the Happy Church location of megachurch Marilyn Hickey Ministries in the Denver Tech Center at I-25 and Orchard Road.  The church sought compensation after its church signs could no longer be seen from the road as a result of the light rail portion of the T-Rex transportation project.This is good news for government budgets which may avoid suits from roadside businesses that lose an ability to advertise because of new construction, but bad news for property owners whose property values and business traffic can decline when their signs are obscured.

Under the ruling, compensation is not allowed for declines in property value attributable to loss of advertising visibility, even when, as in this case, some of the loss is attributable to an actual physical taking of real estate and advertising visibility is just one component of the compensation sought.

Notably, the opinion does not necessarily impact mountain views, lake views, or skyline views which are obscured.  The court did not disturb a prior precedent involving electrical lines strung across a pristine wilderness property that allowed compensation for a loss in value attributable to “aesthetic view.”  The Colorado Supreme Court held, however, that the Happy Church was not suing because its beautiful view of I-25 through a windowless cinder block wall upon which its sign was located was obstructed, so this precedent did not apply.

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Andrew Oh-Willeke

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