This week the Denver City Council authorized the use of eminent domain to seize homes and businesses for private development in the historic Five Points district. The vote puts 246 properties in the commercial corridor—including well-maintained Victorian homes dating back to the 1880s—under threat of condemnation for at least the next seven years.
Here's some case law, courtesy of that blight study:
The absence of widespread violation of building and health codes does not, by itself, preclude a finding of blight. According to the courts, "the definition of ‘blighted area’ contained in [the Urban Renewal Law] is broad and encompasses not only those areas containing properties so dilapidated as to justify condemnation as nuisances, but also envisions the prevention of deterioration."Essentially, the existence of a few rundown but perfectly serviceable properties that are not generating code violations triggers eminent domain for an entire neighborhood. According to the blight study, the situation in Five Points is dire. Two (two!) properties are safety hazards and nine have serious issues.
The study consists, as these things too often do, of a consultant driving around and taking unflattering photos of whatever presents itself and wildly inflating the dangers of cracked sidewalks (“injurious to the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of the residents of the state”); peeling paint (“a social and economic liability”); and vacant lots and oddly-shaped parcels (“contribute to the spread of disease and crime”).
Moreover, Colorado law only gives property owners 30 days to challenge a blight declaration in court. So five years from now, if city officials decide to seize a property that was declared blighted this month, it will be too late for the owner to argue that their clearly non-blighted property isn’t blighted.