Washington voters to act on open space, eminent domain issues: New Milford (CT) Spectrum, 8/19/05

By Lynda Wellman

Residents of Washington [CT] will vote at a town meeting next Thursday on a proposed ordinance regarding the taking of private property by eminent domain.

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

Interest in tightening up eminent domain laws has been sparked of late by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London. Many say the court decision 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.

Washington residents will also be asked to vote on a proposed amendment to the town’s Open Space Land Acquisition Fund Ordinance to establish an open space and land acquisition fund.

Thursday’s town meeting will begin at 5 p.m., immediately following the regularly scheduled Board of Selectmen meeting at Bryan Memorial Town Hall.

Eminent domain
Washington officials say the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing a town to take land by eminent domain for private development puts at risk traditional property rights.

The Zoning Commission and Board of Selectmen are asking the public to support the proposed ordinance, which requires that property to be taken by eminent domain meet one of the following criteria:
  • The property is to be owned by the town or an agency of the town, and is to be used or set aside for one or more public facilities, such as, but not limited to, streets, bridges, parkways, sidewalks, rights of way, or other public ways, parks, playgrounds, schools, or public sewer, water or waste disposal or transfer facilities.
  • The property is to be owned by the town and set aside for permanent open space or drainage or erosion control facilities.
  • The property poses a danger to public health or safety as a result of physical deterioration, pollution or contamination, and is to be taken by the town for the purpose of remediating such conditions or minimizing danger to the public.

The proposed ordinance is posted on the town website www.washingtonct.org and is available at the town clerk’s office in Bryan Memorial Town Hall.

New Milford Spectrum: www.spectrum.newmilford.com