Town reaps benefit due to state blunder

Only after it had installed pedestrian flashers back in October at the northerly intersection of routes 7 and 33 did the state Department of Transportation (DOT) realize it had made improvements to land it did not legally own.
That property belongs to Wilton, but mistakes were made, and to compensate for their error, DOT officials offered to buy the town land for $8,550, First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice said at the Jan. 4 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
“They did all the work thinking that they owned it,” Vanderslice said.
The selectmen unanimously agreed to the sale.
Town Planner Bob Nerney attended the Jan. 4 meeting to explain the proposed acquisition. “They’re looking to remedy [the mistake] by offering to purchase 435 square feet of land — which encompasses primarily the existing sidewalk at that location — and also an additional 149 square feet [as an easement],” he said. Wilton’s Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the proposition and found it acceptable, Nerney said. The commission, he said, “does not see any conflicts with any long-range plans. It’s undeveloped land, and a very small part of the roadway rounding.
“It doesn’t appear that it would serve any benefit to the town in the future, given that it’s the rounding formed by two state highways,” he added.
Vanderslice said the funds from the sale would be pushed into the town’s miscellaneous revenue account.
During discussions, Selectman Dick Dubow wondered, “Are we losing thesidewalk?”
“The sidewalk’s to remain; it’s just the ownership that’s changing,” replied Nerney, with Vanderslice adding, “We keep everything that we had before, plus $8,550.”
Dubow then introduced the prospect of Wilton using the fault of the DOT as leverage to negotiate greater compensation from the state. “Are there any other little things we might want to extract from this?” he questioned. However, Nerney said he was “reluctant — at least in this instance — to go down that path.”
“The way it works is, the state generally makes an offer. People can and have disputed offers in the past. What normally happens is the state, if they want to — and I don’t think it’s ever their desire to go this route — they would probably just move ahead with eminent domain,” Nerney said.