Weld County moves to take land from Mormon church for road project | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County moves to take land from Mormon church for road project

Tyler Silvy
tsilvy@greeleytribune.com

Citing looming construction deadlines, Weld County has moved to declare eminent domain against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The decision, during a Board of Weld County Commissioners meeting Wednesday, comes after months of fruitless negotiations for the additional right-of-way Weld County needs to complete Weld County Road 47 — the Weld County Parkway, a stretch of four-lane, concrete road running from Weld 60.5 to Colo. 392.

Weld is spending $21 million on the project, which will connect Colo. 392 traffic with U.S. 34. The parkway already is complete from U.S. 34 to Weld 60.5.

Weld County attorney Bob Choate told commissioners Monday negotiations have been slow, as there is a hierarchy of committees within the church. The county so far has negotiated with 15 landowners, and officials still are negotiating with three, but the county has moved to declare eminent domain on only one — the Mormon church.

Choate said he still hopes to negotiate with the Mormon church, which owns four sections of land along the east side of Weld 47. But because Weld must provide right-of-way to the contractor by Nov. 1, Choate said the county must make the eminent domain move now.

The church owns four sections of property totaling 660 acres along the east side of Weld 47, but Weld County needs just 15-20 feet of property along that stretch of road.

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Those four sections represent more than 10 percent of the church's 5,000-plus acres of land in Weld, which the church has accumulated largely in the past couple decades, according to a months-long Tribune analysis.

After months of negotiations, Weld officials offered the church $42,478 for right-of-way along Weld 47, but Choate said he doesn't expect an answer until late October.

If the county does declare eminent domain, something commissioners gave staff permission to do but has not yet been done, it would pay at least as much as its final offer, Choate said.

"My experience is — and I've done quite a few of these cases — when you condemn, you pay more," Choate said.

There are a variety of options going forward, including a church-proposed license agreement, Choate said.

One problem with that approach is that licenses generally are revocable, Choate said.

The Mormon Church was aware of the action Wednesday, as Choate said county staff had been in contact.

The church has not responded to requests for comment from The Tribune about its land holdings in Weld, but in previous stories about the church's nationwide land ownership, church officials have said buying land is a good long-term investment.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify the total amount of land Weld County needs for the Weld 47 project.

— Tyler Silvy covers government and politics for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at tsilvy@greeleytribune.com. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.

By the numbers

» 5,310 — Number of acres the Mormon church owns in Weld County.

» $14.3 million — Value of that land, according to the Weld County Assessor.

» 2.571 million — Total acreage in Weld County.

» 0.2 percent — Percentage of total Weld County land the church owns.

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