Eminent domain earned a bad name six years ago when the Supreme Court upheld New London's seizure of a close-knit waterfront neighborhood for a private developer. The land is now an empty lot.
Another land-taking is making news, this time for a traditional public use, the New Britain-to-Hartford busway. But the cost of this project is raising eyebrows.
Courant columnist Kevin Rennie has raised questions about the state's purchase of land from Aetna in Hartford for the project. The state paid the insurer $5.6 million for 1.5 acres of land that's valued by the city at $442,000.
The 2008 purchase - at a price more than 10 times the estimated market value - deserves a good look by an independent agency (perhaps state auditors?) to satisfy the public that it was proper.
It may well be. The Department of Transportation says complex eminent domain laws require the state to buy property not at its market price, but at a "just compensation" price - what it would cost the seller to replace the lost land. Three appraisers determined it would cost Aetna several million dollars to buy or build new parking spaces to replace ones that were taken.
But the public shouldn't just take the DOT's word for it. An independent review - which the DOT says it welcomes - should settle the matter.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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