Saturday, April 23, 2022

Stratford, Connecticut officials oppose airport eminent domain bill

STRATFORD, Connecticut - The town’s elected officials are nearly unanimous in their opposition to a bill that could have implications for Sikorsky Memorial Airport.

The bill, titled HB5308, would give the Connecticut Airport Authority the power to use eminent domain to make necessary safety changes without approval from the state Department of Transportation. It would also give the CAA the power to approve a purchase of an airport by a municipality.

“This is precisely what we have been warning about with regard to the interest of the CAA in their effort to obtain the Sikorsky Memorial Airport from Bridgeport through a non-public process,” Mayor Laura Hoydick said in a statement.

Kevin Dillon, executive director of the CAA, said this bill clarifies existing powers the CAA already has. He said the bill is “essentially clean-up language” with some additions. It also contains requirements for aircraft liability insurance coverage, for example.

“It doesn't grant us any additional authority other than we carry out what the DOT is required to do right now,” Dillon said.

The CAA is a quasi-public body that owns and operates six airports in the state, including Bradley International Airport. Eminent domain is the right of a government to purchase private land for public use. The CAA has submitted a bid to purchase Sikorsky from the City of Bridgeport. Hoydick also has expressed interest in buying the airport.

Right now the eminent domain process requires the CAA to request a “condemnation” of property from the DOT when a need arises, which the DOT will then approve, Dillon said.

Under HB5308, the executive director of the CAA would have to submit a written statement to the municipality explaining why purchasing or taking the land is necessary. The acquisition will then go to a referendum within the locality.

If it does not pass in the referendum, then the CAA would have the right to appeal the vote to the Superior Court, which could then give the CAA power to proceed with the land acquisition.

Dillon said the CAA would not move to use eminent domain to increase the length of the runway at Sikorsky, should the organization purchase it from Bridgeport.

“We have no intention to exercise eminent domain regarding Sikorsky to acquire additional property for airport uses,” Dillon said.

The CAA has only initiated the process once since 2013, and the process was not carried through to conclusion. In that situation, a homeowner near the Danbury Municipal Airport had a tree on their property that was in the way of a runway, Dillon said. The situation was resolved before the process was completed.

Dillon also said the CAA is “perfectly fine” with the current process as it stands since this was a DOT request.

In addition to Hoydick, all three of Stratford’s representatives in the House, Sen. Kevin Kelly, and nine of the 10 Town Council members have come out against the bill.

Hoydick expressed her concern again in a joint statement with nine members of the Town Council Friday. The only member not included was Democrat Greg Cann.

“The effort of the Connecticut Airport Authority to obtain the power of eminent domain regarding airports in their holdings is of deep concern to all of us as they pursue this power while simultaneously attempting to purchase the Sikorsky Memorial Airport from the City of Bridgeport,” the statement said.

The group said they oppose this bill and any other bill with similar contents that could be presented this legislative session.

Hoydick announced the town’s interest in buying Sikorsky from Bridgeport in mid-March. The town cited the ability to have local control of the airport and fear that agreements the town has with Bridgeport would go away under state control.

State Rep. Phil Young, D-Stratford, said he is against the portions of the bill that have to do with eminent domain. He added, “I kind of doubt it is ever going to see the light of day.”

The bill was drafted by Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, but language updates were included when it went through the Transportation Committee, according to the bill’s legislative website. More than 15 pages of language were added between initial submission and filing to the House.

1 comment:

  1. Bernie made off with the money, Lorena bobbed off the you know what and a Looney re-runs the Kelo confiscation play.

    2022 tells the rest of history: "Hold my beer and watch this!"