Calf Island Comm. Trust v. Young Mens Christian, No. Civ. 302CV462AHN.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
Writing for the CourtNevas
Citation392 F.Supp.2d 241
Decision Date26 January 2005
Docket NumberNo. Civ. 303CV275AHN.,No. Civ. 302CV462AHN.
PartiesTHE CALF ISLAND COMMUNITY TRUST, INC. & Marilyn Tsai v. YOUNG MENS CHRISTIAN ASSOC. OF GREENWICH, et al. United States of America v. 28.8 Acres of Land, More or Less Located off the Coast of Greenwich, Situated in the County of Fairfield, State of Connecticut, et al.
392 F.Supp.2d 241
THE CALF ISLAND COMMUNITY TRUST, INC. & Marilyn Tsai
v.
YOUNG MENS CHRISTIAN ASSOC. OF GREENWICH, et al.
United States of America
v.
28.8 Acres of Land, More or Less Located off the Coast of Greenwich, Situated in the County of Fairfield, State of Connecticut, et al.
No. Civ. 302CV462AHN.
No. Civ. 303CV275AHN.
United States District Court, D. Connecticut.
January 26, 2005.

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John Hughes, Civil Chief, U.S. Attorney's Office, New Haven, CT, Joy Ryan, U.S Dept. of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Div., Washington, DC, for U.S.

John Van Allen Murray, Diserio Martin O'Connor & Castiglioni, LLP, Stamford,

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CT, for The Plaintiffs in No. 3-02-CV-462 (AHN).

Philip H. Bartels, Holland Kaufmann & Bartels, LLC, Greenwich, CT, for Defendant YMCA.

Mary E. Sommer, Sandak Hennessey & Greco, LLP, Stamford, CT, for Defendant The Trust for Public Land (Inc.).

RULING ON YMCA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GOVERNMENT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

NEVAS, District Judge.


These consolidated cases involve the transfer of owner hip of a parcel of property known as Calf Island, a/k/a Calves Island, ("Calf Island") from the Young Mens Christian Association of Greenwich ("YMCA") to the United States Department of Interior. In the first action, a neighboring landowner, Marilyn Tsai ("Tsai"), and an entity known as the Calf Island Community Trust, Inc. (the "Trust") challenge the transfer on the grounds that the proposed use of the property would violate restrictive covenants, interfere with a prescriptive easement, and breach an alleged promise by the YMCA to preserve public access and use of Calf Island. Tsai also alleges that the deed conveying Calf Island to the YMCA is invalid. The second case is an in rem action in which the. United States exercises its power of eminent domain to take fee simple title to Calf Island.

Presently pending before the court are the YMCA's motion for summary judgment in the first action, and the government's motion for partial judgment on the pleadings in the condemnation action. The YMCA seeks a judgment dismissing the complaint filed by Tsai and the Trust on the grounds that, among other reasons, their action is moot in light of the government's condemnation action. The government seeks partial judgment on the pleadings on the defendants' objections to the taking and release of funds.

For the following reasons, the YMCA's motion for summary judgment [doc. # 47] and the government's motion for partial judgment on the pleadings [doc. # 45] are both GRANTED.

I. The Condemnation Action

In the complaint for condemnation the government exercises its power of eminent domain to obtain fee simple title to Calf Island1 and seeks judicial determination of, and an award of just compensation to the property owner, the YMCA, and others having a compensable interest in the property. In compliance with Fed. R.Civ.P. 71A,2 the government asserts that it has authority for the taking pursuant to the Declaration of Taking Act ("DTA"), 40 U.S.C. §§ 3113 and 3114, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 4601-4, the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, as amended, 16

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U.S.C. § 742f, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 1534, and the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Acts, 1996 and 1997, Pub.L. No. 104-134 and Pub.L. No. 104-208.

The government further asserts that the public uses for which the property is taken are to properly develop and manage the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge (the "McKinney Refuge"), including protection, conservation, restoration, and management of the land; to protect and enhance populations of heron, egrets, terns and other shore and wading birds in the McKinney Refuge, and to provide opportunities for scientific research, environmental education, and fish and wildlife oriented recreation.

In compliance with Rule 71A(c)(2), the complaint describes the property taken, asserts an amount of estimated just compensation of $6,000,000, asserts that the estate taken is the full fee simple title, lists the YMCA as the purported owner, and identifies other parties who may have or claim an interest in the property pursuant to deed restrictions.

Tsai and the Trust filed an answer and objections to the condemnation complaint in which they assert that the government failed to comply with the requirements of 40 U.S.C. § 3114 and Rule 71A and that the government: (1) does not have authority to condemn the property for the public purposes stated in the complaint; (2) failed to name the Trust as a party even though it claims an interest in the property; (3) improperly requested distribution of the amount of estimated just compensation; (4) does not have authority to expand the McKinney Refuge by condemning Calf Island; (5) does not have authority to use the power of eminent domain to purchase Calf Island; and (6) did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and Fish and Wildlife Service regulations. Additionally, in their memorandum in opposition to the government's motion for judgment on the pleadings, Tsai and the Trust assert two other grounds to set aside the taking: (1) irregularities and improprieties in the determination of the amount of estimated just compensation, and (2) the government's failure to comply with the congressional delegation of eminent domain authority and agency policies and programs.

A. Discussion

The government maintains that Tsai and the Trust have not presented any valid objection to the taking. According to the government, it obtained title in fee simple to Calf Island immediately upon the filing of the declaration of taking and that the only question the court may consider in a challenge to the taking is a narrow, focused inquiry into whether there is a congressionally authorized public purpose for which the land is being taken. See Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26, 32-33, 75 S.Ct. 98, 99 L.Ed. 27 (1954) (holding that once the public purpose is determined to be within the authority of Congress, "it is for Congress and Congress alone to determine the means of executing the project."); see also Hawaii Hous. Auth. v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229, 241, 104 S.Ct. 2321, 81 L.Ed.2d 186 (1984) ("Where the exercise of eminent domain power is rationally related to a conceivable public purpose, the Court has never held a compensated taking to be proscribed by the Public Use Clause."). The government maintains that it is exercising its eminent domain power as authorized by Congress and that none of the objections of the defendants have any merit.

1. Role of the Court

At the outset, the court notes that it has a very narrow and limited role in

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takings challenges. Indeed, based on extensive, well-settled precedent, it appears that the only question this court may properly consider is whether there is a congressionally authorized public purpose for which the property is being taken. See, e.g., Hawaii Hous. Auth., 467 U.S. at 241, 104 S.Ct. 2321; Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. at 26, 75 S.Ct. 98. The court's role is merely to determine whether the asserted statutory authority authorizes the taking of the property for the asserted purpose. See United States v. Welch, 327 U.S. 546, 552, 66 S.Ct. 715, 90 L.Ed. 843 (1946).3

2. Authority and Public Purpose

As authority for the taking of Calf Island, the government relies on the general condemnation authority granted by the DTA, 40 U.S.C. § 3114, and three other statutes that give the Secretary of the Interior the authority to purchase land: (1) the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, 16 U.S.C. § 4601-4 (providing "funds for the Federal acquisition and development of certain lands and areas" for outdoor recreation resources); (2) the Fish and Wildlife Act, 16 U.S.C. § 742f(a)(4) (authorizing the Secretary to take steps "for the development, advancement, management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife resources including ... acquisition by purchase or exchange of land and water, or interest therein"); and (3) 16 U.S.C. § 1534(a)(2) (authorizing the Secretary to acquire by purchase "lands, waters, or interest therein, ... in addition to any other land acquisition authority."). The government further relies on a provision of the DTA that gives any agency having congressional authority to purchase land the power to also condemn the land. See 40 U.S.C. § 3113. Lastly, the government relies on 16 U.S.C. §§ 668dd(a)(1) and 742(f)(4), which give the Fish and Wildlife Service authority to administer the National Wildlife Refuge System.

With regard to its specific authority to acquire Calf Island for inclusion in the McKinney Refuge, the government relies on Pub.L. No. 98-548, §§ 201-306 (1984) and Pub.L. No. 101-443, § 2 (1990). Public Law 98-548 established the Connecticut Coastal National Wildlife Refuge, which was later renamed the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. See Pub.L. No. 100-38, 101 Stat. 306 (May 13, 1987). The stated purposes for which the McKinney Refuge was established are:

(1) to enhance the populations of heron, egrets, terns, and other shore and wading birds within the refuge;

(2) to encourage natural diversity of fish and wildlife species within the refuge;

(3) to provide for the conservation and management of all fish and wildlife, within the refuge;

(4) to fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United States respecting fish and wildlife; and

(5) to provide opportunities for scientific research, environmental education, and fish and wildlife-oriented recreation.

Pub.L. No. 98-548, § 201(b).

This law designated the initial boundaries of the Refuge and directed the Secretary to "acquire (by donation, purchase with donated or appropriated funds, or exchange) lands, waters, or interests therein within the [designated]...

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2 practice notes
  • Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. 6,627 Square Feet of Land, Civil Action 21-1753 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 5, 2022
    ...the taking of the property for the asserted purpose.” Calf Island Cmty. Tr., Inc. v. Young Mens Christian Assoc. of Greenwich, 392 F.Supp.2d 241, 247 (D. Conn. 2005) (citing Welch, 327 U.S. at 552). As an interstate transit authority, plaintiff's power to condemn and take private property s......
  • Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. 6,627 Square Feet of Land, Civil Action 21-1753 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 5, 2022
    ...the taking of the property for the asserted purpose.” Calf Island Cmty. Tr., Inc. v. Young Mens Christian Assoc. of Greenwich, 392 F.Supp.2d 241, 247 (D. Conn. 2005) (citing Welch, 327 U.S. at 552). As an interstate transit authority, plaintiff's power to condemn and take private property s......
2 cases
  • Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. 6,627 Square Feet of Land, Civil Action 21-1753 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 5, 2022
    ...the taking of the property for the asserted purpose.” Calf Island Cmty. Tr., Inc. v. Young Mens Christian Assoc. of Greenwich, 392 F.Supp.2d 241, 247 (D. Conn. 2005) (citing Welch, 327 U.S. at 552). As an interstate transit authority, plaintiff's power to condemn and take private property s......
  • Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. 6,627 Square Feet of Land, Civil Action 21-1753 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • July 5, 2022
    ...the taking of the property for the asserted purpose.” Calf Island Cmty. Tr., Inc. v. Young Mens Christian Assoc. of Greenwich, 392 F.Supp.2d 241, 247 (D. Conn. 2005) (citing Welch, 327 U.S. at 552). As an interstate transit authority, plaintiff's power to condemn and take private property s......

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