The Home Front: Colorado’s own border war is a showdown over eminent domain

The Longmont Times-Call reports how a legal clash over 20 acres of land along the Erie-Lafayette border, “which threatens to derail plans for a multimillion-dollar development and could set a new precedent for how Colorado’s judiciary oversees the use of eminent domain between neighboring towns, will unfold in Boulder District Court this week. Lafayette wants almost half of Erie’s 45-acre property at the corner of U.S. 287 and Arapahoe Road to provide “a buffer through open space” between the towns in order to “protect Lafayette’s unique community character,” according to a condemnation lawsuit filed last summer. The case marks the first instance in which a Colorado town or city has tried to acquire land from its neighboring community through eminent domain, Lew Harstead, a Boulder-based attorney who specializes in land-use law, said earlier this year. Dabbling in such unchartered legal territory has made it difficult to forecast how such a case could be decided — though the case’s unprecedented nature might prove difficult for Lafayette in persuading a judge.”

“Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has been a defender of free speech and a skeptic of libel claims, an Associated Press review of his rulings shows,” reports the AP on the front page of The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “His record puts him at odds with President Donald Trump’s disdain for journalists and tendency to lash out at critics. On other First Amendment cases involving freedom of religion, however, Gorsuch’s rulings in his decade on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reflect views more in line with the president and conservatives. Gorsuch repeatedly has sided with religious groups when they butt up against the secular state.”

The Denver Post reports how Democrats are facing pressure to push back against the new president. “President Donald Trump hasn’t stepped foot in Colorado — or even tweeted about the state — but his shadow has loomed large over the statehouse in the first weeks of the legislative session,” the paper reports. “After an opening address in which House Speaker Crisanta Duran pledged to fight back against perceived attacks from the White House on minorities, Democrats have made good on that promise. They have used the bully pulpit — and pointed legislation — to stake out a position as a bulwark against the new administration. Many Republican lawmakers feel ambushed, backed into a fight on polarizing national issues. But others have jumped eagerly into the fray with headline-grabbing measures of their own. It’s a dynamic that could threaten Colorado’s self-professed reputation for eschewing divisive, Beltway-style politics for middle-of-the-road compromise. And Democrats, in particular, show few signs of de-escalating the conflict.”

“Just call Robert Mann and Paul Hegland the neighborhood toilet fairies,” reports The Coloradoan. “The Fort Collins neighbors recently wrapped up a project installing 21 so-called ‘magic toilets’ around the River Rock neighborhood northwest of downtown, and now they’re trying to spread the word about the most water-efficient throne on the market. Before you pooh-pooh the idea, consider this: Water-efficient toilets cut down on your utility bill, Fort Collins Utilities will pay you to install one and there’s a chance you qualify for a new toilet free of charge.”

The Gazette in Colorado Springs reports “An El Paso County judge is considering a request to reduce a former Fort Carson soldier’s eight-year prison sentence for drunkenly shooting a friend in the hand based on whether he is receiving adequate mental health care in prison. Reports that former Staff Sgt. Cory Griffin’s mental health has further unraveled while in prison could rise to the level of an “extraordinary” circumstance meriting a sentence reduction, 4th Judicial District Judge Lin Billings-Vela said at the conclusion of a hearing Thursday.”

“Grand River Hospital District will seek taxpayer support to replace its 50-year-old E. Dene Moore Care Center,” reports The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. “The project would cost as much as $90 million, not including interest. “We have no other choice,” Grand River Health Chief Executive Officer James Coombs said at the Rifle Chamber’s State of the Community on Thursday. “The cost of replacing the obsolete care center is beyond our means, and we can’t do it without the community’s help.” The new center would double in bed capacity and will include a memory care and Alzheimer’s unit for the hospital, which the current facility lacks.”

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports how Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton “is on a one-man mission to reform the state’s largest public employee retirement system. The Republican, who is expected to run for governor next year, has gotten three bills introduced into the Colorado Legislature that would change the way the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association operates.”

“A record number of rafters floated Colorado’s waterways last year, spurring a banner year for the rafting industry and the communities that host river-running vacationers,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “The Colorado River Outfitters Association on Thursday said rafting companies hosted 550,861 commercial guests on 29 stretches of rivers in 2016. Those guests spent more than $70 million in Colorado, stirring an estimated economic impact of nearly $180 million in the state’s riverside communities. “When people come to Colorado to spend their vacation, we are seeing more people thinking, ‘Hey, we ought to raft before we go home.’ Fifteen, 20 years ago, people didn’t think about rafting as much. They thought maybe it sounded a little bit too far beyond them. Now, outfitters are catering to a larger demographic and more families, and they are pushing into gentler water,” said David Costlow, the head of the outfitters association.”

The Durango Herald profiles a ski bum who turned into a ski executive. “Greg Ralph would have become a surfer had surfers been a little nicer,” the paper reports. “Surfers aren’t the friendliest, most encouraging people toward beginners,” said Ralph, who grew up in Southern California. “It’s sort of that ‘my wave’ mentality, and I always seemed to be jumping on the wrong wave in front of the wrong guy, so I didn’t get the warmest welcome from the surf crowd.” Instead, he took up skiing, and has been “masquerading as a professional ski bum” for 40 years. Ralph, 60, was hired three years ago as Purgatory Resort’s vice president of sales and marketing. He comes at a pivotal moment in the ski resort’s 52-year history.”

“While most workers in Boulder County are toiling away their weekly 40 hours, living for a midsummer, two-week paid break, increasing numbers of employees are enjoying the possibility of unlimited vacation,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “More local companies than ever are looking to unlimited leave policies to boost productivity, reduce turnover and prevent burnout. Policies are in place in at least half a dozen businesses, big and small, but particularly prevalent within the thriving startup community. “It’s kind of the new approach to work,” said Dave DuPont, CEO of Boulder tech company TeamSnap. “I want people to be making things happen, not punching a timeclock. “Life is not only about work.”

Valentines Day is a boon for local flora shops, reports The Greeley Tribune. A local merchant told the paper customers spend an average of $100 at one shop, “but the range is really anywhere from $10-$500, depending on the person. That pars up with folks across the nation who, according to data from the National Retail Federation, like to get a little spend-crazy for their loved ones on Valentine’s Day.”