Eminent domain unanimously approved: The Connecticut Post, Bridgeport CT, 5/2/07

By Anne M Amato

When developers of the Crescent Village condominiums were presenting their proposal for the former Pinecrest Country Club site, part of the plan was to leave a wooded, 200-foot-wide buffer between the new construction and existing homes on Long Hill Avenue.

The land would remain open space, with nature and walking trails. At least, that was the intention.

But last week, heavy equipment began moving onto a 1.34-acre lot owned by Phoenix Housing, right in the middle of the buffer zone, which runs from the Pine Rock Park firehouse to Wintergreen Lane.

Trees were cut down and site preparation began.

Neighbors, like Michele Rosiak, quickly learned a house was being built there by former Pinecrest owner, Jonathan Zuckerman, for his son, Adam.

"There's already four machines on the property and I'm sure they'll bring in more," she said. "Is there anything we can do to stop them?"

Rosiak was one of a handful of neighbors attending a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen Monday night at City Hall where the board planned to vote to begin legal action to take the Phoenix Housing property by eminent domain.

But because there wasn't a quorum, the meeting was adjourned to Tuesday night when the board voted unanimously to do just that and set aside $175,000 for the land purchase.

More than a dozen neighbors attended the Tuesday meeting.

"We'll see what happens," said Eric Soto, a Crescent Village resident whose condominium abuts the site.

"It's a privacy issue," he said. "They've already taken down about a dozen trees."
"I wish it had never come to this point," added Patrick Cwanek, a neighbor of Soto's.

Mayor Mark A. Lauretti agreed.

"It was never the intention of the city to go this route," he said. "We tried the better part of a year to negotiate and were forced to get to this point."

Alderman John Anglace, R-3, board president, said having a buffer between the Crescent Village condominiums and existing homes on Long Hill Avenue was something the developer told neighbors he "would do his best" to provide.

The majority of land from the firehouse to Wintergreen Lane was eventually conveyed from the builder to the city, except for the Phoenix Housing parcel.

"We immediately passed a motion for the mayor to negotiate for the purchase of the property, and that's been going on for some time," Anglace said.

That's why the recent land clearing also took city officials by surprise.

Initially, the city tried to stop construction by a cease and desist order, said Tom Welch, the city's corporation counsel. "But there was no basis to stop it," he said.

The land is zoned residential and "meets all of the qualifications for permits," so the order was dropped, Anglace said.

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