Fairfield limits eminent domain: Connecticut Post, Bridgeport CT, 2/27/07

By Andrew brophy

The town [of Fairfield CT] no longer can take a resident's property to benefit a private developer.

Russell Jennings, of Winnepoge Drive, thinks that's a good thing.

Jennings said a private developer who wants to buy a resident's house should pay what the homeowner wants — not what the town or developer thinks is a fair price.

"If it's so valuable to a developer, it's incumbent upon him to come up with a price that's agreeable to the homeowner," he said.

But Ken Camarro, of Carroll Road, said the town shouldn't give up its eminent domain power to benefit a private development.

Some neighborhoods that have single-family homes near commercial buildings might be better off with denser housing developments, Camarro said. "We may want to bring a different character to the neighborhood," he said.

The Representative Town Meeting on Monday night overwhelmingly sided with Jennings' point of view.

The RTM voted 35-9, with one abstention, to approve the law, which takes effect March 12.

The ordinance forbids the town from seizing land that has four or fewer houses for economic development purposes if the development to be built will be owned by a private or nongovernment entity.

The ordinance was enacted in reaction to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said towns and cities could force people to sell their homes to make way for a private development if the development brought in more tax revenue.

The debate among RTM members and the public in Osborn Hill School's gymnasium was brief but lively.

Mitchell Fuchs, D-8, said the town law would not be necessary because he trusts future RTMs to use the town's eminent domain power wisely.

"We have never passed an ordinance solely for the purpose of controlling this body. I for one believe in the people in this room," Fuchs said. "I trust, whether it be this town body today, 10 years from now, 30 years from now, that this body would do the right thing."

But Faith Dillon, R-9, said a future RTM might be tempted to seize someone's property if a large corporation wanted to come to town because that corporation would pay a lot of taxes. Dillon voted in favor of the ordinance.

James Millington, R-1, urged the RTM to send a "a clear message" by approving the law.

"Send a message to developers, if they're looking to exploit eminent domain in Fairfield and send a message to homeowners, that we're going to protect them in their homes," he said.

Brian O'Gara, D-5, said many residents in the Tunxis Hill area of town live in homes that could be sought by developers because they are near commercial properties. Tunxis Hill homeowners may not have the money to fight eminent domain in court, O'Gara said.

Connecticut Post, Bridgeport CT: http://www.connpost.com