Land Board facing lawsuit over Eagle County deal
Attorneys for Robert Brotman filed the lawsuit in Denver District Court. The suit alleges members of the Colorado State Land Board broke a legal contract when they unanimously cancelled Brotman’s 1996 contract to buy 1,280 acres of land the board owns in Eagle County. The deal became the flashpoint of a long and loud public outcry from local residents who want the land preserved.
“We had no choice but to file the lawsuit once they decided to renege on the contract,” Brotman’s attorney, Jay Baker, said Wednesday.
Supporters of the land board, including Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone, remain steadfast, however.
“We were all pleased the State Land Board had the courage to close this file,” Stone said. “It’s now incumbent on us in Eagle County to support the land board now that they’ve made the decision we wanted them to make. We took it for granted Mr. Brotman would sue.”
Brotman’s deal was pushed through just before Colorado voters passed Amendment 16, which limited the number of acres the State Land Board could sell. It also changed the board’s composition from two state employees to a voluntary board for which members get paid only $50 per meeting.
Prior to Amendment 16, the State Land Board’s directive was to sell off land that was generating no revenue and acquire income producing properties, such as office buildings and parking lots. The State Land Board owns more than 3 million acres around the state, and money generated by that land helps fund the state’s public schools.
“The Brotman deal happened quickly because the people who had agreements were in a rush to get their deals done before the new board took office,” said Stone.
In 1996, a previous land board reached a deal to sell Brotman the pair of 640-acre tracts. Public outcry in Eagle County reached Gov. Owens, who instructed Colorado Department of Natural Resources Director Greg Walcher to invoke a 1973 law giving anyone in Walcher’s office the power to halt any State Land Board deals he deemed aren’t in the public interest. That sent the whole thing to the Legislature, which killed a bill that would have allowed Eagle County to put the land under conservation easements.
Board members later decided the original contracts on the two parcels were fatally flawed, opting to return Brotman his $1.4 million, plus the interest it has earned.
In August, the Colorado State Land Board said no sale to contracts selling 1,280 acres of open land in Edwards. The decision closed eight years of disputes.
But Brotman’s lawsuit opens another chapter, however, sending the entire matter back to the courts.
Assistant Managing Editor Randy Wyrick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or email@example.com.