The Palizzi Farm owners say eminent domain would kill the Brighton farm

Customers check out Palizzi Farm produce at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market. There is no tax on the sale of produce, but one on processed produce has long been on the books in Denver.

A vegetable farm in Brighton, which started operating as the Great Depression settled in on the country 95 years ago, says it will have to close up shop if a residential developer takes possession of part of its land through an eminent domain.

Parkland Metropolitan District no. 1, which oversees the development of the 140-acre Bromley Farms neighborhood at the southeast corner of East Bromley Lane and Chambers Road, filed a “Petition for Condemnation” in Adams County District Court last month. It says the developer must build a “regional drainage spillway” — complete with pipes, culverts, manholes and outlets — on a portion of the Palizzi Farm for its project.

Jack Hoagland is Parkland’s chairman and president and is also listed as the owner of Bromley Farms in subdivision plan documents filed in Brighton.

In its April 3 filing, Parkland’s attorneys argued that in order to proceed with construction of Bromley Farms “in a timely manner,” the metro district “requires and is entitled to immediate possession of the subject property” under state condemnation law.

A hearing on the eminent domain claim is scheduled for Monday in an Adams County courtroom.

Palizzi Farms, nestled between a grocery store, mall and residential neighborhoods, is seen here at their location on the 15000 block of East Bromley Lane in a September 2023 photo in Brighton, Colorado.  (Screenshot via Google Maps)
Palizzi Farms, nestled between a grocery store, mall and residential neighborhoods, is seen here at their location on the 15000 block of East Bromley Lane in a September 2023 photo in Brighton, Colorado. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

On the Save Palizzi Farm website, the consequences of the prevalence of such a claim are laid out in no uncertain terms.

“This action would force the closure of the Palizzi farm stand located on Bromley Lane, as 90% of the produce sold there is grown on the farm,” the website states. “The Palizzi farm would lose all of the crops already planted, would have to pay the workers hired for the entire season, and would not be able to supply the five different summer farmers markets they attend each year.”

He attends farmers markets in Evergreen, Parker and Denver during the warm months. Monday’s decision, the farm said on its website, “will determine the fate of the 2024 farming season and ultimately Palizzi Farm’s ability to operate its produce farm going forward.”

The Palizzi farm, which began growing vegetables and herbs in 1929, is on the northern edge of what was called the Splendid Valley — a 5,000-acre tract of mostly fertile farmland in Adams County, south of Brighton , dedicated to preserving Colorado’s agricultural past.

Owner Debora Palizzi did not return calls for comment, and attorneys representing the farm declined to talk about the case. The Metro Parkland District and its attorneys did not comment for this story either.

In a motion to dismiss the attempted condemnation filed in court on April 30, attorneys for Palizzi Farm said Parkland “did not negotiate in good faith with the defendants.”

“Other practicable routes are available that would not damage the defendant-landowner’s property to the extent of the chosen route,” the motion states. “The petitioner chose a route through the middle of the respondent-landowner’s property, knowing it would cause extensive damage that could be avoided.”

The motion accuses Parkland of choosing Palizzi Farm for its stormwater infrastructure not to serve a public interest, but “to save the developer money.” Attorneys for the metro district contested in a court filing that it made multiple offers to purchase the property “but was unable to reach a voluntary agreement to purchase the subject property.”

In a brief filed late last week, Parkland attorneys said the district offered Palizzi Farms $55,000 for easements on the property for its drainage project, but that the offer was rejected. He then put $300,000 on the table and that too was rejected, according to the brief.

The metro district justifies its eminent domain action by saying the stormwater work “is necessary for the public health, safety and welfare of the property owners and future residents” of Bromley Farms.

Eminent domain, which allows governments to take private property for public use — while providing fair compensation to the property owner — has a colorful history in Colorado. It almost always inflames the passions of private property advocates, who often argue that it is a form of government overreach.

Several eminent domain actions — or threats thereof — have emerged in recent years, including a dispute last year in which Denver threatened to condemn property belonging to a church camp in Coal Creek Canyon to establish access to a 448 of acres that had been donated. city ​​as a mountain park in 2021. Eminent domain was used a few months earlier in Thornton, when a court awarded the city a dilapidated shopping center, which is now cleaning up contamination from the site in preparation for the center’s demolition in the coming months.

As a metro district, Parkland qualifies as a quasi-municipal corporation and a political subdivision of the state. In 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court expanded its eminent domain powers, ruling that a municipal district — not just an official government body — could condemn land as long as it was done for the public good.

“The Colorado Constitution requires that the conviction benefit the public, but does not prohibit a private party from benefiting as well,” the court ruled.

In September, the Brighton City Council approved a service plan for the Parkland Metro District that allows the use of eminent domain to obtain easements for underground infrastructure. A Brighton spokeswoman, Kristen Chernosky, said, “Stormwater improvements prevent stormwater flooding and move water to the South Platte River. This has been planned as a necessary improvement for at least four decades.”

But for Palizzi Farm, the end is in sight if the Parkland Metro District gets its way Monday. No more presence at farmers markets and goodbye to its Corn and Chile Festival on Labor Day weekend.

“AND ALL OF THIS WILL GO AWAY if the City of Brighton and Parkland Metropolitan District no. 1 will deal with land that does not belong to them,” the farm said on its website.