Preston outlaws eminent domain: Norwich (CT) Bulletin, 11/2/05

By Greg Smith

Voters in Preston showed their overwhelming opposition Tuesday to the idea of private land being taken by the town for economic development. At referendum, voters adopted an ordinance against taking land by eminent domain.

The vote comes on the heels of an unpopular Supreme Court decision backing the city of New London in its bid to condemn homes and allow private developers to boost economic growth there.

"I think it was misused in New London. The Supreme Court made a judgment error," said Penny Herring of Preston.

"I think people really became aware of the problem after New London," said Florence Prue, of Preston, who voted in favor of the ordinance. "Not only here in Connecticut, but all over. So when the petition started, there was no way I was not going to get down here and vote."

Putnam passed a similar ordinance in August.

Tuesday's vote was brought to a referendum by the efforts of Teresa Schulz, 72, of Preston. Her son, Tim Schulz, said she wanted a townwide vote to give everyone, especially the elderly, a chance to vote.

"We don't have enough people in the world like her," Schulz said. "It's a shame that, after the decision in New London, people had to petition their government to do the right thing. Leaders in every town should bring this to their voters."

First Selectman Robert Congdon said eminent domain is likely to become a statewide issue.

"I think it sends a message to legislators at the state level about what the sentiment of the town is," Congdon said.

Even before Tuesday's vote, the town could not take land without a town meeting vote, Congdon said. Without opposition, the new ordinance goes into effect in 15 days. It does not stop the state from using eminent domain, however.

Norwich Bulletin: www.norwichbulletin.com