9/23/2005

Councilman proposes severe restrictions on eminent domain: The Boston (MA) Globe, 9/20/05

Members of the [Norwalk CT] Common Council will consider an ordinance that would severely restrict the use of eminent domain in Norwalk. Common Councilman Michael Coffey, as chairman of the Ordinance Committee, which was to meet Tuesday night, placed on the agenda an ordinance limiting the city's powers to seize private property solely to build public facilities, such as schools or roads; to preserve open space; or to address health or safety hazards.

City Attorney Louis Ciccarello had urged Coffey last week to delay discussions of eminent domain before the city's legal battle is resolved over taking the Maritime Motors, a South Norwalk Chevrolet dealership, for an office development.

The state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on the Norwalk case. For more than two years, the car dealership has fought the forced sale of its showroom and storage yard.

"Any hearings or discussions by your committee on the subject of eminent domain may very well undermine or prejudice our position before the court," Ciccarello wrote Coffey. "I urge you to simply postpone discussion ... until the Supreme Court has acted."

Coffey said he had not received Ciccarello's correspondence and did not believe any eminent domain discussion would impact the Maritime Motors case.

If adopted by his committee and the full Democrat-majority council, the proposed ordinance would go into effect 15 days after publication in local newspapers.

Coffey began urging the Ordinance Committee to discuss eminent domain after the June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that New London could take homes in Fort Trumbull to make way for a hotel and office space. But the justices added that states were free to ban the taking of property for economic development projects.


The Boston Globe: www.boston.com