LEO GOLD et al. v. TOWN OF EAST HADDAM, SC 18067

Judicial District of Middlesex

 

Eminent Domain; Whether Town was Required to Bring Condemnation Proceedings Within Six Months of Referendum Vote Approving Acquisition of Property; Whether Voters Intended that Property be Acquired Solely for Proposed School Project. In June, 2004, the town of East Haddam voted by referendum to acquire the plaintiffs' property. The referendum vote was, in relevant part, on the question of : "Shall the Town of East Haddam appropriate $24,500,000 for the New Middle School Project including, but not limited to . . . the acquisition by purchase or eminent domain of approximately 226 acres of real property . . . provided, however approximately 30 acres be used for the New Middle School Project, approximately 50 acres be used for general purposes and the remaining real property of approximately 146 acres be designated as open space. . . ." In January, 2006, the town initiated proceedings to take the plaintiffs' property by eminent domain. The plaintiffs brought this action seeking to enjoin the taking, claiming that the town could not pursue the condemnation proceedings because it had failed to initiate them within six months of the vote authorizing the acquisition of the property as required by General Statutes 48-6 (a). The town moved for summary judgment, arguing that, because it was taking the plaintiffs' property to build a school, General Statutes 10-241a, which does not have a time limitation, governed the acquisition of the property. The town submitted affidavits from its land use administrator and first selectman attesting that the only planned use for the plaintiffs' property was the school project. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the town and the plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Court (103 Conn. App. 369) reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, finding that summary judgment was inappropriate because an issue of material fact existed as to whether the taking was intended solely for school purposes. The court noted that, while the affidavits submitted by the town officials support the claim that the plaintiffs' property was to be used solely for the school project, the language of the referendum question submitted to the voters suggested that some portions of the property were being taken for other purposes. The Supreme Court will now consider whether the Appellate Court properly remanded the case for further factfinding where the town argues that the intent of the town's voters is a question of law to be determined by the language of the referendum. The court will also consider the town's claim that, because the general and open space uses are incidental and secondary to the primary purpose of the school project, it was not bound to initiate the condemnation proceedings within six months of the referendum vote.