white river national forest

Colorado Eminent Domain Case Settled, Property Owners Lose Land

The Colorado eminent domain case in Breckenridge is now over, and left Ceil and Andy Barrie feeling that fighting the government is a futile endeavor. A controversial property rights case ended in the Barrie’s agreeing to sell their secluded backcountry land for just $115,000.

The Barrie eminent domain case involved a 10-acre parcel of private land surrounded by the White River National Forest. A rustic of cabin, an outhouse, and a non-functioning and shuttered 1800s era gold mine were situated on the land the local government wanted to seize for “open space.”

The government became heavily involved in the daily lives of the Colorado couple once officials discovered they had been using a utility vehicle which came with the property, to reach their land. Andy and Ceil Barrie used a road Summit County did not even realize existed to travel via the ATV.

After Summit County officials asked to purchase the land and had their request refused by the owners, proceedings to condemn the property and to seize it for eminent domain began. “People in this community are very intent on preserving the back country,” Summit County Attorney Jeff Huntley said. Those opposed to the apparent rash of eminent domain seizures going on in America tend to believe that an entity’s desire to preserve may be worthy, but ends sharply at private property boundaries. Huntley also added that the county only seized the property because the Barrie’s refused to stop using the ATV.

The Barrie’s contended throughout the legal battle that they have a legal right of way to the property, and can therefore use the non-muscled powered mode of transportation to reach the cabin, just as the previous owners had. Summit County and US Forest Service officials deny that assertion.

Legal precedent was not on the side of the Colorado couple. The state supreme court ruled that a similar open space seizure of private property near Telluride was constitutional in 2005. Yesterday Ceil and Andy Barrie accepted a $115,000 offer from Summit County to purchase the property. According to Ceil, the voluntary settlement amount, entered into after court-ordered mediation, only covers the legal expenses involved with fighting the eminent domain seizure and some small land value.

Ceil Barrie had this to say about the eminent domain settlement:

“The cabin was condemned on the grounds of plumbing and electricity, when it doesn’t even have plumbing or electricity. All those things added up in my mind. This is ridiculous, we can never win and our money is not unlimited. I have two kids in college this year. To me, what just came out of it is, you can’t fight the government.”

A statement released by Summit County officials noted that the settlement will “halt various commercial activities” on the Barrie land. Andy raked up fallen pine cones for a Christmas wreath business and used a cart to transport them back to his home in a subdivision below the property to assemble for sale. If condemning a home because it does not have plumbing and electricity is legal, off the grid homes and hunting cabins across the county may now be at risk.

What do you think about the Colorado eminent domain case?

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