Town votes to limit eminent domain powers: Wethersfield (CT) Post, 9/2/05

By G C Gould

The [Wethersfield CT] town council voted unanimously to limit the town's eminent domain powers at a meeting Aug. 22.

The ordinance, which was Republican-introduced but which passed 6-0, places certain restrictions on the use of eminent domain powers in Wethersfield by the Town of Wethersfield or its agents.

Absent from the meeting were Andrew Adil (D), Christine Fortunato (D), and John Cascio (R).

Mayor Russell Morin (D) said the ordinance was a "statement that the town supports its people. It's more of a commitment by the town to let people know we insist on protecting their rights," he said.

The newly passed Chapter 12 of the Wethersfield code of ordinances states: "no owner-occupied residential real property consisting of four or fewer dwelling units may be acquired by eminent domain for economic development purposes pursuant to General Statutes 8-128 to 8-133 inclusive, if the resulting project will be privately owned or controlled. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the use of eminent domain powers for public purposes including but not limited to the construction of sewers, highways, sidewalks, rights of way, flood and erosion control purposes or for any other transaction where the property rights acquired will be held or controlled by the town of Wethersfield."

The ordinance purposely intends to prevent the application of the Supreme Court case Kelo et al. v. New London et al., where the top court decided in favor of allowing the use of eminent domain in order to further the economic development of the city.

The ordinance is accordingly prefaced by the following statements: "Whereas, the town council of the town of Wethersfield views the United States Supreme Court's decision in Kelo et al. v. New London et al. as a threat to citizens and taxpayers of the town of Wethersfield who own residential real estate and live in their homes; and Whereas, it is the intention of this ordinance to prevent the application of the Kelo decision in this community by prohibiting the acquisition of certain owner-occupied residential real property by eminent domain for use in a municipal development project where the property would be privately owned or controlled and where the process would result in the homeowner's losing his home."

Mayor Morin added that people will be hearing more and more about eminent domain at the state level.

"If something comes out of the legislature then we can adjust it," said Morin.

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