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Brighton farm draws hundreds of supporters in eminent domain battle

A Brighton vegetable farm’s fight against a metropolitan district’s eminent domain action to provide storm drainage for new homes drew hundreds of people to an Adams County court Monday in support of the nearly century-old operation.

Palizzi Farm, nestled between a grocery store, mall and residential neighborhoods, is seen here at its location on East Bromley Lane in a September 2023 image in Brighton.  (Screenshot via Google Maps)
Palizzi Farm, nestled between a grocery store, mall and residential neighborhoods, is seen here at its location on East Bromley Lane in a September 2023 image in Brighton. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

District Judge Sarah Stout heard nearly four hours of testimony about the developer-controlled district’s attempt to use part of the farm property. Stout has told both sides that he will issue a ruling in the case no sooner than the end of the month.

The judge is tasked with deciding whether Parkland Metropolitan District No. 1 may condemn a portion of Palizzi Farm to build a stormwater project for his Bromley Farms housing development.

Farm owner Debora Palizzi said on the stand that laying huge drainage pipes across her 63-acre farm would so affect her ability to plow and cultivate her land that it would essentially take her out for good from business. Palizzi grows sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, chilies, okra, beets, onions and cucumbers at the farm on East Bromley Lane, which has been in operation since 1929. He sells his produce at area farmers’ markets each year.

The drainage work “would completely split our farm in half and, as we are today, completely eliminate irrigation from my farm,” she testified Monday.

Jack Hoagland, a longtime Colorado developer, is the president of the Parkland Metro District and a partner in the Bromley Farms project. He said the stormwater infrastructure project will not simply benefit the new neighborhood he wants to build, but will also solve a decades-old drainage problem in Brighton.

In fact, it was elected city leaders who gave Parkland the authority to use eminent domain as part of a City Council-approved service plan for the metro neighborhood last summer.

Hoagland characterized the drainage works as having a public benefit justifying the use of eminent domain under Colorado law. Palizzi, he said, rejected a $300,000 offer for the easements over her farm — which he cited as evidence that Parkland had made a good-faith attempt to buy access for its stormwater project before proceeding to sentencing.

But Palizzi’s attorney, Donald Ostrander, had a pointed retort about his client’s reluctance to grant access to her land: “Does that suggest to you that it’s not about the money?”

His question drew applause from the crowds gathered in three overflow rooms in the courthouse.

Audience members also jeered at one point in Hoagland’s testimony when he listed several partners in the Bromley Farms development who also serve on the Parkland Metropolitan District board. In 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that metro districts, as quasi-municipal governments, have eminent domain powers.

After the hearing, Palizzi said Parkland’s move to condemn part of its farm for its drainage project was nothing more than an attempt by the metro district to find the cheapest and most direct route without fully exploring Other options.

“Our land is so important to us,” she said in an interview outside the courthouse. “I’m just hoping for a good outcome where I can continue to feed the community and the surrounding communities.”

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