Norwich agency - Eminent domain rule is unnecessary: Norwich CT Bulletin, 9/14/06

By Dorothy Schneider

The [Norwich CT] Redevelopment Agency is making known its opposition to eminent domain restrictions that will go before the City Council Monday for a vote.

Chairman Tom Marien asked for agency support Wednesday night for a letter pointing out "many flaws" in the proposed ordinance. The group voted 8-1, with member Renee Kohanski opposed, to send the letter in advance of the council's public hearing on the issue.

"To imply the average citizen in this community has any reason to have concern about eminent domain is just incorrect," Marien said, pointing out the RDA has only used the tool once in his tenure and, even then, not on residential property.

Alderman John Crooks introduced an ordinance that would strengthen the existing eminent domain statute by requiring a super-majority vote and a review by the Administrative, Planning and Economic Development committee to approve any action on residential property. Alderwoman Jackie Caron joined as a co-sponsor at the council's Sept. 5 meeting.

Another component of the ordinance extends protection to any occupied dwelling unit, not limited to owner-occupied properties, which Marien argued could help protect "slum lords."

RDA member Brian Curtin said it is disgraceful Crooks, who is running for state representative this fall against State Rep. Jack Malone, D-Norwich, would try to use such an emotional issue for political gain.

"You understand how political this stuff is," he said. "It's great when you've got a campaign going."

Crooks has acknowledged in the past his sponsorship of the measure is intended to make good on campaign promises he's made to protect concerned citizens from eminent domain powers. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London last year the city could transfer land from one private owner to another to further economic development.

Crooks could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Kohanski said she voted against Marien's letter because she agrees with some parts of the proposed eminent domain ordinance.

"The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling gives whole new flavor to eminent domain authority," she said. "I do want to see extra protection added."

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