The diner vs. City Hall: Fortune Small Business Magazine, 4/4/07

A small restaurant owner battles her local government over eminent-domain power - and wins

By Ian Mount

Maria Aposporos must never have heard the adage about fighting city hall. The 60-year-old owner of Curley's, a Stamford, Conn., diner, took on her local government when the city decided that her location, on gentrifying West Park Place, would be a perfect spot to build an apartment tower.

The city tried to use its eminent-domain powers to buy the property for $233,000, some $1 million less than Aposporos's appraiser thought it was worth. Aposporos fought Stamford in the Connecticut Supreme Court and won.

The city then erected a chainlink fence around three sides of Curley's (which has no Web site, but can be reached at 203-348-2020), cutting it off from a parking lot and dumpster.

Aposporos countered by winning a seat on Stamford's board of representatives.

But lately things haven't been looking good for Aposporos. As a member of the minority Republican Party, she says that her power on Stamford's board is nil.

And her attempts to sue for access to the parking lot - to which Stamford mayor Dannell Malloy says she sold the rights more than 20 years ago - have been unsuccessful. "I'm getting frustrated," Aposporos admits.

Fortune Small Business Magazine: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb