Though their family lost its homestead when the city of Bristol took it by eminent domain more than four years ago, members of the Bugryn family are still speaking out on the issue.
"I don’t want this to happen to anybody else anymore," said Ronnie Bugryn. "It’s not right."
Bugryn and his cousin, Mike Dudko, have been taking part in rallies in support of New London property owners who have been fighting to keep their homes in an infamous eminent domain case in that city.
Dudko testified recently at a state legislative committee hearing about the impact that Bristol’s use of eminent domain the government’s power to force the sale of private land for a public purpose had on his family.
"There has to be a change," said Dudko. "The laws have to be reviewed. For 50 years, it slid to one direction. There’s problems, there’s flaws in the eminent domain law. They have to close some of these little tricks that local development boards can use."
"It was too much power given to officials to do anything they pleased," said Dudko. "There was nothing to protect the citizen."
Dudko said he told the committee his own family’s story to show that the New London case isn’t the only one.
"If they’re just focusing on New London, they’re making a mistake," Dudko said. "It’s important to see what went wrong in Bristol."
Bugryn and Dudko lost their homes when the city took their parents’ houses at 269 and 299 Middle St. in February 2000 to build an industrial park.
The city tore down the houses last year, but there are no factories, offices or warehouses on the land.
"Nothing’s been done with our property except a couple of signs saying ‘Keep Out,’" said Bugryn. "What’s the plan?"
City officials intend to build an industrial park on the land, which is next to the former Superior Electric property.
Jonathan Rosenthal, Bristol’s economic development director, has said that the number of possible tenants interested in the property have declined as the economy has lagged in recent years and has suggested that if there hadn’t been such a long fight over the land, it would have been filled up by now.
"The scheme that they dreamed up failed," said Bugryn, "and they have the nerve to say it’s our fault."
In a special session this week, state lawmakers are expected to take up the issue of eminent domain, among other things.
"I think things should be tightened up a little bit here," said Bugryn. "You have no property rights in this state. People don’t seem to realize this."
Bugryn said he wants the state to clamp down on the loopholes that "allowed these development authorities to run rampant in this country."
The fact that the land remains vacant isn’t a surprise, said Dudko. He said the city’s only plan for the land was for a new headquarters for Yarde Metals. The company was interested, but eventually grew tired of waiting and moved to Southington instead.
"The city had full intention of giving it to Yarde Metals. That was their only major prospect. They had nobody else nibbling," Dudko said. "I would love to go back to Middle Street. I would love to have some of the frontage where our homes were."
"They’ll never give it back to us," Bugryn said.
But they continue to rail against the system that made it possible for the family to lose their land.
"It’s always been with the power of the legislature to change things," said Dudko. "A person has a right to keep their home."
"There’s still a faction in my family that feels we got screwed," Bugryn said. "The property wasn’t for sale. We have no right to say no?"
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