Land Dedication Law


Important Update:

On 2/8/17, attorneys for Twin Lakes Action Group (TLAG), in partnership with the Palo Park Petitioners delivered a demand letter to City of Boulder, Boulder Housing Partners, Boulder County and BVSD. This letter makes the clear legal case that Boulder officials are breaking the law on our publicly dedicated lands. The letter demands a response from officials about their avoidance of the law and Code, and describes the multiple avenues available to the community to pursue legal remedies in the courts. Please read the letter here: Palo Parkway Demand Letter sent 02-08-2017_email.

Additionally, a great letter to the Daily Camera was submitted by a local community member that describes the importance of this battle for our public lands. We hope to set national precedent in this case to prevent other citizens around the country from having their precious lands usurped by local officials.

“I am a resident of Boulder who is working with TLAG on the Palo Parkway land dedication issue. I have read the demand letter sent by TLAG’s attorney, and note that the allegations raised in the letter appear to be well substantiated both factually and legally.

Additionally, I feel it is important to clarify that this case is largely about holding the city accountable to protect and preserve land which has been dedicated for public use, so that such dedicated land may be used for the benefit of the community, as was specifically intended in accordance with the land dedication laws.

The city (and BVSD) is taking the position that it has the right to dispose of any publicly dedicated land as it sees fit. Toward that end, the city appears to be going out of its way to interpret the land dedication laws as narrowly as possible, in order to avoid having to comply with those laws, which were specifically put in place for the benefit of the public. Palo Parkway and Twin Lakes are just two examples of this.

Moreover, the city been derelict in its affirmative duties and obligations to protect and preserve, for the benefit of the community, land which has been dedicated for public use under the land dedication laws.

It is the city’s duty to protect the interests of the community, and to ensure that publicly dedicated land is used and preserved for the benefit of the community. It is neither right nor proper for the city to shift the burden of such duties on to the neighborhood communities to enforce. We (community residents) should not have to be required to file a lawsuit against the city every time the city chooses to deliberately ignore or circumvent “unfavorable” requirements of land dedication laws.”

Dedicated land is property that has been gifted or signed over by a private owner to a municipality or agency for specific public purpose and use. In Boulder these dedications are common for school use, park space, and utility purposes. Over the years many private owners have given land to Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). These lands are restricted to school and recreational use – for the sole benefit of the community.

Unfortunately, the City and County of Boulder are increasingly attempting to repurpose these dedicated lands for residential development despite the clear legal restrictions on such use. That was the case at 4525 Palo Parkway, and is also the case at Twin Lakes, Washington School and Lake Shore Estates. We have made a map of our local public land dedications under threat here:

We want to provide all Boulder residents with our growing knowledge and resources on this critical legal issue. Our current belief is that the actions of the City and County constitute an illegal taking of public lands for purposes that are contractually forbidden by law.

We aspire to be a resource both locally and ultimately nationally for communities that are under threat of these types of land takings. Please email us if you have information to add to our resource collection.

On Palo Parkway School Dedication Status:
(Current Threat: Boulder Housing Partners – BHP – High Density Private Residential Condo Development)

Great Daily Camera Letter: LINK
Presentation to Planning Board and City Attorney: LINK
Palo Dedication Plat: LINK

On Twin Lakes School Dedication Status:
(Current Threat: Boulder County Housing Authority – BCHA- High Density Private Residential Condo Development)

Great Daily Camera Letter #1: LINK
Great Daily Camera Letter #2: LINK
Great Daily Camera Letter #3: LINK

Action Steps:

Write directly to the City and County Attorneys, cc City Council & County Commissioners. Demand that our public land dedication contractual agreements are upheld.

We recommend the address block is used like this:



Important: We are actively interviewing attorneys with a public lands and land use backgrounds. We can also use research assistance from the community. Please contact us if you know anyone with this expertise, or want to help on these important public lands issues.

Legal Research:

NRPA Law Review, Parks & Recreation: On Dedication Litigation

Harvard Law Review: On School Dedication Litigation – 1901

DU School of Law on Colorado Dedication Requirements:

“One of the principal interests of the local government during subdivision is the dedication of specific lands to public use. Public use dedications made by subdivision plats normally include streets, parks, school sites, and easements for public utilities. Colorado counties have the authority to require subdivision developers to dedicate land or pay fees-in-lieu of dedication for parks and schools, when the parks and schools are reasonably necessary to serve the proposed subdivision and its future residents. 59 Counties may also require fees-in-lieu to be paid directly to school districts.

Cities do not have the same explicit authority to assess fees-in lieu as counties, but many do so based on their home rule powers or the Local Land Use Control Enabling Act.60 Fees-in-lieu collected for schools may only be assessed against the developer during the subdivision phase. A Colorado county may not assess fees for schools directly against homebuyers in the form of impact fees or exactions. 61 Any dedications of property or payments of fees as a condition to land use approvals, including subdivision approval, must meet certain requirements.

There must be an “essential nexus” between the dedication or payment and the impact of the development. In addition, the dedication or payment must be roughly proportional to the burdens created by the development. 62 This requirement parallels standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court for exactions. Much of the litigation relative to subdivision plats has taken place on this point—i.e., whether required dedications are roughly proportional to the anticipated impacts of the proposed development.”

How officials convince private owners to give up these dedications – environment  is leveraged by officials: LINK
“Key to the plan’s sustainable aspect is 28 acres of private open area, including a 7.6-acre park, horse pasture and CSA farm. Also, 10 acres of public land dedication, private trails and trail connections to the future regional trail along the southern boundary of the property is planned.”

California Dedications: LINK
Indiana Dedications: LINK
When dedications are used correctly according to law: LINK