Family Battling Town of Bloomfield in Eminent Domain Dispute
A family is fighting the Town of Bloomfield’s attempt to take their property by eminent domain.
With “a heavy and angry heart” Amy Geigner took to Facebook to vent.
She wrote an open letter about the Town of Bloomfield’s plan to seize her fiancé’s seven-acre property through use of eminent domain.
But it’s more than just property to her fiancé, Harry Sawyer.
It’s a race track.
The land features a full motocross track that’s enjoyed by friends and family, including Sawyer’s six year old son Austin and Geigner’s daughter, Kasey.
“I don’t want to sell the property. I just bought it,” Sawyer told Fox CT.
The town has offered Sawyer $41,000 for the land, but he says it’s worth much more.
He purchased it in September from his acquaintance, Charles Smith, for $99,000.
Smith had owned the land for years and built the track himself at an estimated cost of $25,000.
He sold the land to Sawyer around the same time that the town began inquiring about a possible purchase of the property.
Sawyer says Smith’s son stopped riding his bike so he decided to sell.
But Smith was at the property on Thursday, when Fox CT interviewed Sawyer.
Bloomfield’s Town Attorney, Marc Needelman, says Bloomfield commissioned two independent appraisals of the land, which both valued the property at about $41,000.
“Look, the town and the town government wouldn’t be looking to spend money to acquire property if it couldn’t justify it to the taxpayers,” says Needelman.
The bike track borders Bloomfield’s public works department and that plays into the town’s plans for usage of Sawyer’s property.
The town wants to expand the public works department facility onto the land for fuel tank housing and storage.
The situation is very emotional for Sawyer and his family, who consider the land and the track, priceless.
Sawyer doesn’t want to sell the land, regardless of the price.
He says the space and availability of a personal race track are hard to come by in Connecticut.
“I like riding on the big track and riding without training wheels. I like that,” said son, Austin Sawyer.
Geigner’s 15 year old daughter, Kasey, also rides motocross.
“Not fair at all,” she said in reference to the town’s proposed takeover.
Sawyer calls the town’s proposal a “land grab” and while he’s never met him personally, he called Needelman a “heartless son of a b****” in a note sent to the attorney.
In his defense, Sawyer references basic rights in the U.S. Constitution and cites statutues such as 47-1 which states “Each proprietor in fee simple of lands has an absolute and direct dominion and property in the same, and all patents and grants of lands from the General Assembly of the colony of Connecticut, pursuant to the charter of Charles II, shall be sufficient evidence of a title in fee simple to the grantees, their heirs, successors and assigns forever.”
Sawyer says the town is acting outside the law.
“The sole owner of the property… which is me. I own it outright… it can’t be zoned, they just can’t take it,” says Sawyer.
Attorney Needelman disagrees with Sawyer, saying the law is on the side of the town in this matter.
“We’re complying with the law. It’s unfortunate it impacts them in the way they’ve laid out,” says Needelman.
Ultimately, Sawyer can choose to accept the $41,000 offer or he’ll be forced to get his own appraisal and fight for more money.
He can also hire an attorney and try to fight the town’s eminent domain claim, but he likely faces an uphill battle, considering the broad pro-government precedent set in the landmark supreme court ruling in the Kelo v. City of New London case decided in 2005.
Either way, Sawyer says the “taking” of his property just isn’t fair and leaves his family crushed.
“Eminent domain is just fluff out of some lawyer’s behind,” says Sawyer.
Needelman says Bloomfield rarely uses eminent domain – only twice in the past 30 years.
Meanwhile, Sawyer has 90 days to file an official response with the courts.