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A sign at the top of Crescent Bluff Avenue (seen at right) notes the road is private and that video cameras are in use. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Waterside Grassy Strip to be Conveyed to Pine Orchard Association
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Subject to approval by the Town of Branford and the Executive Board of the Pine Orchard Association (POA), a settlement agreement reached among all parties will turn over to the Town the paved portion of Crescent Bluff Avenue, including the strips of land adjacent to it; and conveys to the POA a strip of land across the lawn at the waterfront.
The arrangement was reached on Feb. 4 and filed with the state Superior Court on Feb. 5. Based on the arrangement, two other pending cases in the Hartford Judicial District, which were scheduled to recommence on Feb. 24, have been suspended.
In response to notice of the arrangement reached on Feb. 4, Judge Sheila Ozalis has ordered all parties to file, by April 24, a joint status report on the status of approvals and finalization of settlements. The court also allowed for a withdrawal of the agreement to be filed no later than May 19, 2020.
By Town Charter, settlements made by the Town of Branford will need to be authorized by a public vote of the Representative Town Meeting.
The Feb. 4 arrangement should be the final act in a 12-year drama that has brought litigation and actions following the privatization of the avenue and lawn area by a resident. Barbara Saggese of 1 Crescent Bluff Ave. formed Beachcroft LLC in 2006 and acquired, by quit claim deed, property ownership of the road lawn alongside the waterfront which residents had historically used as an access point to Long Island Sound.
Litigation ensued over the years. Concerns were raised by residents and the POA, with many showing evidence that the Town had maintained the road and issued permits for utilities for decades as a public way. In June of 2019, the Town of Branford intiated, then withdrew the town government process to approve initiation of condemnation proceedings to take, by eminent domain, both the avenue and lawn.
Since 2011, the Connecticut Supreme Court has held that Crescent Bluff Avenue was not a public way; but also provided that residents had the right to pass and repass over the paved portion to access intersecting Pine Orchard Road, as well as the right to pass and repass over the lawn to access the water between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
The Feb. 4 agreement was reached as a result of an Oct. 2017 suit, "Robert G. Wheeler, et al vs. The Selectmen of the Town of Branford (to wit James Cosgrove, Joseph E. Higgins Jr. and Jack Ahern)" was filed in New Haven Superior Court in October, 2017. The selectmen's names were required by statute. The statute, CGS 13a-63, revolves around the premise that people may petition the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to create a road; and if the road isn't created, a procedure exists which allows the people to ask the court to appoint a committee of three "disinterested persons" to hold a public hearing on whether it serves the public interest and convenience to have the road.
Most recently, the case drew attention due to court-ordered public hearings which took place in Branford Jan. 28 – Feb. 1 (see related story).
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