Monroe Selectman Proposes Ordinance on Eminent Domain: (Woodbury CT) Voices, 10/12/05

By Audrey Grasso

[Monroe CT] First Selectman Andrew Nunn is proposing an ordinance on how the town would use eminent domain. Mr. Nunn has turned the proposal over to the town attorney and town council.

"There has been a lot of confusion around the state regarding the use of eminent domain as a result of the Supreme Court's Kelo vs. New London decision," the first selectman noted. "Currently, the General Assembly is discussing potential changes to the state's eminent domain statutes.

"In the past, the town of Monroe has used eminent domain for public purposes, such as acquiring the property for Rails to Trails," he said. "However, I feel it is important to clearly define how we, as a town, would use eminent domain."

The first section of the proposed ordinance, the Monroe Homeowners and Property Protection Ordinance, defines economic development as "any activity to increase tax revenue, tax base, employment or general economic health, when the activity does not result in the transfer of land to public ownership, such as for a road, hospital or military, OR, the transfer of land to a private entity that is a common carrier such as a railroad or utility OR the transfer of property to a private entity, when eminent domain will remove the harmful use of the land. That includes removal of a public nuisance, removal of structures that are beyond repair or that are unfit for human habitation or use OR acquisition of abandoned property."

The proposal suggests that no town official, elected or appointed agencies or officials can authorize to propose, approve or appropriate funds for the use of the power of eminent domain to take private property unless the property to be taken meets one of the following criteria:
  • The property is to be owned by Monroe and is to be set aside for one or more public facilities such as streets, bridges, sidewalks, parks, playgrounds, schools or public sewer, water or waste disposal or transfer facilities.
  • The property is to be owned by Monroe 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 Monroe for the purpose of remediating such conditions or minimizing danger to the public.

Neither the town nor any of its subdivisions may use eminent domain to take private property without the consent of the owner to be used for economic development.

In the final statement of the proposed ordinance, it is noted that: "Not withstanding any other provision of the law or this ordinance, private property acquired through eminent domain without the consent of the town shall not be dedicated, sold, leased in substantial part, or otherwise transferred to a private person, partnership, corporation or any other entity for a period of 10 years following the acquisition of the property by the town."

There are exceptions: The property may be transferred to leased to private entities that are public utilities or common carriers and, to private entities that occupy an incidental area in a public project, such as a retail establishment on the ground floor of a public building.

If any portion of the proposed ordinance is determined to be unlawful or to be in conflict with any governing state or federal law, the remaining provisions of the ordinance will remain in effect.

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