This time there are no families being displaced. There is no high-profile lawsuit, no precedent to set. There is just a bitter sense of the way things are going to be from now on.
Ridgefield, one of the richest towns in Connecticut, wants to take undeveloped land currently owned by a developer to build private office space. The developer wants to build moderately-priced single-family homes instead, and charges that the town's move is a violation of the Fair Housing Act:
Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi sent a letter to Eureka V [the developer] in 2001 offering to buy the land for $2.7 million. He also wrote that if necessary the town would take the property through eminent domain.
Eureka V went to federal court asking for an injunction against an eminent domain move and alleged Ridgefield is violating the federal fair housing law by attempting to prevent Eureka from building houses for people with school-age children. (Tuz)
The last part is interesting, although the land is currently zoned commercial anyway so no houses could be built there. "Houses for people with school-age children" sounds like homes that are ever so slightly lower in price than others in Ridgefield, although it's very hard to tell from that sentence. Ridgefield could be trying to keep the kind of riff-raff who buy $300,000 homes instead of $550,000 homes out, but probably not.
So why does this matter? It's a fight between the town and a developer over an empty lot. If nothing else, this article also provides an excellent example of what I would consider to be "public use":
Ridgefield has taken land from Eureka V once before. In December 2000, the town took 458 acres known as the northern parcel of Bennett's Pond and paid Eureka V $12.2 million. That property was sold to the Department of Environmental Protection and is being maintained as open space. (Tuz)
Maintaining open space is a public use. Private offices are not.
The point is unfortunately moot, for now. We shouldn't expect cash-strapped municipalities to show restraint and good judgement when faced with private developers willing to help add to the grand list. New London certainly isn't. And, with a special session to address eminent domain an increasingly dim possibility, we shouldn't expect things to get better any time soon.
Tuz, Susan. "High court ruling affects Bennett's Pond." Danbury News-Times 10 July, 2005.