In my concluding paragraph in a letter I submitted to various newspaper publications in September 2013, I wrote this concerning the removal of the Woodin Street fence: “Ultimately…the next mayor will have to be committed to retaining the fence. If not, the fence will most certainly be removed.”
Contrast what I said against what then Chairman of the Democratic Party Lou Panzo wrote concerning Mayor Scott Jackson’s position: “Mayor Scott Jackson, on more than one occasion, has pointed out that “those fences are there for a reason" and has stated his support not only for the will of the neighborhood, but also his role as guardian of the checks, balances, and public process.” This hardly sounds like a man committed to the retention of the fence.
Recent headlines in the New Haven Register confirm that the fence issue is now dead and its removal is a foregone conclusion. Mayor Jackson quickly surrendered the battle soon after stating the fence was built on New Haven property. That statement prompted me to google squatter’s rights otherwise known as adverse possession. After all, the fence built by Hamden, has been in place for 50 years.
Here is what I found: “The legal theory underlying the vesting of title by adverse possession is that title to land must be certain. Since the owner has, by neglect, failed to protect the land against the hostile actions of the adverse possessor, an adverse possessor who has treated the land as their own for a significant period of time is recognized as its owner. Title by adverse possession may be acquired against any person or corporation not excepted by statute. Property held by the federal government, a state, or a Municipal Corporation cannot be taken by adverse possession as long as the property has a public use, as with a highway or school property, its ownership cannot be lost through adverse possession.”
“However, there is case law that shows how a municipality may lose an interest in property that involves land or an interest therein that was dedicated to a municipality for use as a public street. If the municipality fails to open or accept the street within twenty-one years, it will lose its ability to open the street without the approval of a majority of abutting owners.”
It seems there may be some wiggle room under the squatter’s rights provision of the law although the sticking point will be what is considered public use. It is worth a try. Any chance of success will require a lawyer committed to fighting for the people and a mayor with the grit and determination to act. Elections matter, and in this case we have a mayor more interested in surrendering than to do what is necessary to fight for his constituents.