FORUM: Legislation is scheme to take over coastal property

March 5, 2012

Once again, the state is attempting to overreach its authority by taking private property because it believes it is protecting residents from potentially rising tides.

For some, living on the shoreline is a choice. But for many, their shoreline home has been passed down from generation to generation, and it is their primary residence.

In either case, under the Constitution — which protects all from illegal intrusion of government — the state’s attempt to take property under the guise of a rising sea level is, at best, misleading and, at worst, oppressive use of power.

An Act Concerning Certain Revisions to the Coastal Zone Management Statutes (House Bill 5128), is simply an attack on the Connecticut shoreline. This bill aims to create a new policy that would include: preventing homes from being built within range of yet-undetermined new high tides; preventing rebuilding after severe storm damage or erosion; establishing a process for property owners’ retreat in effected areas.

The state has no right to make you retreat from your property. But, the language in this bill does that. It is the most dangerous legislative language I have seen in years.

According to the bill, the goal would be to encourage a fair and orderly legal process to foster strategic retreat of property ownership, over several decades, for coastal lands that have a likelihood of being lost due to erosion and coastal lands that contain structures that are subject to repetitive damage.

This bill will do more damage to our coastal communities than Tropical Storm Irene did.

Its language gives greater authority to the state to force residents out of waterfront property. It is not up to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to dictate which families and businesses stay and which go because they are in a potentially affected area.

There is an existing legal framework through eminent domain to take private property for legitimate purposes. One need not be reminded of the very emotional fight in New London in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. One only would have to ask Suzette Kelo how fairly she feels the legal process operated when it forced her from her home to make way for a development project that went nowhere.

One must go back to the Hurricane of 1938 to find storm damage comparable to Irene. We have had more earthquakes in Connecticut than hurricanes.
Irene has served as a tool for those who believe no one has the right to live on the shore. They are using this one storm to advance their self-serving agenda.

Property ownership is a keystone to our country that is rooted in the Constitution. The state’s power of eminent domain is one of the harshest proceedings in law. To exert such power, based upon speculation and possibilities — under the guise of protecting us from ourselves — is dangerous. If we allow this bill to advance and become law, the state will have created new criteria for seizing people’s property. This power ultimately could be used in other areas for other reasons.

The only erosion we should be worried about is that of the public trust in a legislature that would pass this dangerous policy.