This month, a developer filed an appeal in superior court against a decision made by the Waterford Planning and Zoning Commission, saying it violated the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Robert Nauta filed an appeal in New London Superior Court this month after the Waterford Planning and Zoning Commission approved a five-lot subdivision proposed by Nauta at 15 Laurel Crest Drive. With the approval came conditions, conditions Nauta’s agent said on the record would ruin Nauta's hope to build a tree farm at the property.
“The plaintiff is aggrieved by the Commission’s decision in that the plaintiff is the owner of the subject property and is deprived of the full and efficient use of his property by the decision of the Commission to attach certain conditions to its approval,” wrote Jeffrey Londregan, Nauta’s lawyer, in the appeal.
Nauta was proposing to build a five-lot subdivision at 15 Laurel Crest Drive. Four of the lots would be small lots around the cul-de-sac at the end of Miner Lane, with the fifth lot being a 16.68-acre property Nauta later said he would turn into a tree farm.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the subdivision, but decreased the fifth lot from 16.68 acres to around eight, according to Waterford Town Planner Mark Wujtewicz. Wujtewicz said the lot was shrunk to meet open space regulations, and the fifth lot is still more than big enough to build a residential home there.
Nauta is appealing the decision, arguing that the town took away part of his property without due process. He argued that amounts to an illegal seizure of property, which is in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States’ Constitution.
Per regulation, open space in a subdivision must be accessible to all people who live in that subdivision, Wujtewicz said. In Nauta’s proposal, there were two wetland areas that counted as open space, and they were not connected, Wujtewicz said.
Wujtewicz said this violated the town’s regulations on two accounts. First off, the two wetland areas need to be connected so the animals who live there can move back and forth between the vernal pools, he said. Second, open space needs to be accessible to the people who live in the subdivision, and in Nauta’s proposal they would have to trespass onto the large fifth lot to access the open space, he said.
During the public hearing, Nauta’s agent Bill Kent said Nauta was planning on turning the fifth lot into a tree farm. Wujtewicz asked if Nauta would be willing to create an easement – or essentially a path – to connect the two areas of open space, but Kent said Nauta would be unwilling because he didn’t want people walking around the tree farm.
Wujtewicz said the two spots of open space need to be connected, per regulation, and proposed turning the entire western section of lot five into open space. The Planning and Zoning Commission agreed, and effectively cut the 16-acre fifth lot in half to eight acres.
Wujtewicz said Nauta never met with him and Kent rejected his compromise, leaving him with little choice but to come up with his own solution. Nauta is now alleging that by cutting the fifth lot in half, the Town of Waterford illegally seized his property.
It is now up to New London Superior Court to decide. A voicemail to Londregan was not returned.