Griswold selectmen drafting eminent domain ordinance: Norwich CT Bulletin, 2/25/07

By Julie A Varughese

[Griswold] property owners could be protected from having the town take land for economic development if taxpayers approve an eminent domain ordinance being drafted by selectmen.

Selectmen are seeking guidance from ordinances in place in other towns as they work on the proposal for Griswold.

The move is in response to the Kelo v. New London case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 a government could transfer private property from one owner to another for economic development. In New London's case, the Fort Trumbull neighborhood will be eliminated to build condominiums, a hotel and offices.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will have to review the ordinance before the selectmen send it to a special town meeting, which will probably occur within two months, First Selectman Anne Hatfield said.

"We're not supporting the expansion of the eminent domain that took place in the Kelo case," she said of the ordinance she has been looking into since she was elected in 2005.

A bill to limit eminent domain by municipalities failed to make it through the General Assembly last year.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in her State of the State address she plans to submit a bill to the legislature this session.

Her plan calls for a two-thirds authorization from a municipal legislative body, such as a Board of Selectmen, and property owners would receive 125 percent of their property's fair-market value.

Griswold farmer Bernard Laizer said he would show the proposal to attorneys for perusal.

"When the government gets involved, when it comes to anything regarding eminent domain, they need to put it under the microscope and really study it," he said.

Plainfield First Selectman Kevin Cunningham said Plainfield's ordinance, which was passed a few weeks ago at a special town meeting, does not protect properties from being bought by the town for building a school or for creating or re-routing utility lines and transportation systems.

Cunningham said the town's Eminent Domain Committee spent six months reviewing the pros and cons of creating such an ordinance.

"There were some concerned citizens who wanted to put things in writing to protect the town a little further," he said, regarding the General Assembly's inability to pass a bill last year. "It's not a slight to the state, but it was a matter of making sure we were protected as soon as possible."

A referendum will be held April 10 for Plainfield voters to decide if the ordinance should be included in the town charter.

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