Ordinance proposed to limit eminent domain: New Milford (CT) Spectrum, 7/29/05

By Lynda Wellman

New Milford resident Joe Ribeiro wants the Town Council to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit municipal acquisition of property by eminent domain for privately held or controlled economic purposes.

Governments use the power of eminent domain to acquire property needed for public projects but are required to pay fair compensation.

“Do the right thing for homeowners,” Mr. Ribeiro urged the council on Monday. “Protect private citizens.” Mr. Ribeiro, who was endorsed as the Democrats’ 2005 mayoral candidate Tuesday, presented the council with a draft of a proposed ordinance adapted from a Milford ordinance. He said other towns across the state have adopted similar ordinances and New Milford should, too.

He said the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London is a threat to citizens who own real estate. In that decision the Supreme Court sided with the city of New London against homeowners who protested the city’s seizure by eminent domain of property for a private hotel and convention center, office space and condominiums.

New London argued the tax revenue and jobs would benefit the public and, in a 5-4 decision, the high court agreed.

Mr. Ribeiro promotes an ordinance that would prevent the application of the Kelo decision by prohibiting owner-occupied property from being acquired by the town by eminent domain for a municipal development project that would be privately owned and controlled.

He said his proposed ordinance would not limit the town using eminent domain to acquire property for municipal purposes and would not conflict with any state law enacted in a similar vein.

Mayor Pat Murphy said she also had been researching similar ordinances.

She said Tuesday it is nice of Mr. Ribeiro to present a draft but it’s hard to imagine the town taking property for a private entity.

“I can’t think of an administration that would have done that,” the mayor said Tuesday. “None of us would do that. When it comes to eminent domain for private development, I don’t see it happening here.”

Councilman Ray O’Brien called for the town attorney to review Mr. Ribeiro’s proposal and asked the mayor to put the matter on a council agenda in September.

New Milford Spectrum: www.spectrum.newmilford.com