Robinson+Cole’s Land Use Group represents stakeholders in property rights issues, from private property owners asserting the protection of their property rights to municipalities and utilities exercising their rights to acquire property voluntarily or through eminent domain. Our extensive and varied experience gives us a perspective that few others enjoy. We know how to minimize conflicts, resolve disputes quickly and amicably, minimize litigation, and find win-win alternatives. When that fails, we are always prepared to try cases if we must, and that reputation, coupled with our substantive knowledge, makes it possible for us to negotiate from a position of strength and credibility.
Our Services and Our Team
Robinson+Cole’s Land Use Group advises and represents clients on all varieties of property disputes.
The government (federal, state, or local) and public utilities (electric companies, pipeline companies, and railroads) can forcibly take property by eminent domain, with power much like a declaration of martial law. In representing private property owners, our lawyers seek to either defeat the taking by proving there is no defensible governmental purpose or public use, or get the highest “just compensation” the law allows.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
It is possible to use alternative dispute resolution, avoiding the cost and uncertainty of litigation, to enable property owners to retain as much development potential as possible while still being compensated and allowing the government to achieve some or all of its objectives. The techniques include density transfer and compensatory increases in density on remaining lands as well as public-private partnerships.
In representing government, we principally work to help negotiate voluntary purchases so the use of the power can be avoided. When power must be invoked, we work to ensure an appropriate public purpose and public use basis. The firm represented a Connecticut municipality in negotiating and financing a public-private partnership that added a significant, mixed-use development downtown. That project has become the model for many others.
In addition to eminent domain, property may be taken by inverse condemnation, where the government goes “too far” in its regulation, such as by requiring exactions where there is no authority to do so or no impacts that require them. Sometimes the government literally requires a property owner to give up property, including open space dedications. Some government actions are defensible, some are not.
The protection of property also includes negotiating and defending all interests in land between private parties, including easements, covenants, riparian rights, title disputes, invasion by flooding, and aircraft overflights in connection with airport operations. Robinson+Cole lawyers have succeeded in several riparian rights disputes, in court and by negotiating, and in preserving valuable rights for waterfront property owners to wharf out and build docks. For one city, comprising an Air Force base and airfield, our lawyers successfully defended against a claim that air rights had been taken by inverse condemnation because of government restrictions that protected approach paths.
Finally, property issues encompass real and personal property tax appeals. With periodic revaluations, this is a continuing issue for many property owners.
Secured a favorable ruling for Gyrodyne Company of America, Inc., when the New York Court of Appeals denied the state’s request to appeal a judgment awarding Gyrodyne more than $125 million in additional compensation for land the state of New York took by eminent domain. Gyrodyne initially received $26.3 million for the property, which was taken for a research and development project on the State University of New York’s Stony Brook campus.
Successfully litigated trespass and nuisance case on behalf of lakefront property owner against upland neighbor who illegally maintained mooring in client's littoral rights area, securing money damages and injunctive relief.
Successfully defended a marina on behalf of its insurance company from a riparian rights action by a neighboring marina seeking to have floating docks removed, which would have cost the client millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Defended a national railroad company against inverse condemnation and trespass claims concerning an alleged easement over the railroad. This case involved complicated valuation issues related to the presence of mineable stone and rock on the property and the feasibility of developing an industrial subdivision on property that was purportedly landlocked by the alleged taking.