The Day – Court dismisses historic group’s efforts to regulate Lebanon Town Green church


HARTFORD (AP) – A Connecticut appeals court ruled on Friday that a local historical society cannot try to impose its conservation rules on a congregational church that dates back to 1700 and is located in the famous city of Lebanon.

The state court of appeals ruling is the latest chapter in a multi-year legal process over who owns the mile-long green and how to protect it from development that would harm it. historical character.

As a result of these procedures, the Lebanese Historical Society has conservation authority over 95% of the green, which means that any construction and property improvement must follow its building rules and restrictions. But Lebanon’s premier congregational church is on the 5% of green that society does not control.

In a lawsuit filed in 2019, the historical society is seeking permission to regulate the remaining 5%, saying it needs to be protected like the rest of the green. The church has argued that just because the company controls adjacent property does not mean it has the legal capacity to try to impose that authority over the property where the church buildings are located.

Three appeals court judges upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the church on Friday. They said the case had implications for homeowners statewide.

“Deciding otherwise would allow the holder of a conservation and preservation restriction on a property to interfere with a neighbor’s use of their property because the holder of the restriction finds the neighbor’s use offensive. Judge William Bright Jr. wrote in the decision. “There is simply no support in our statutes or the common law for such a proposal.”

The historical society intends to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, said Leslie King, one of its attorneys.

“The Lebanese Historical Society has long worked to protect and preserve the rich history of the city of Lebanon and its remarkable urban green,” King said in a statement. “He will continue to pursue all legal options to ensure that all of green, which for centuries has been a unified whole, is protected for public use in perpetuity.”

The state attorney general’s office, which is a party to the lawsuit and supported the historical society’s position, said in a statement that it is reviewing the decision and considering how to respond.

Church pastor Reverend Dr Will Sencabaugh declined to comment. Mary Mintel Miller, the church’s lawyer, said a decision in favor of the church would have been bad for all landowners in Connecticut.

“It would become a problem not only for this one piece of land in Lebanon, but for cities across the state if all of a sudden neighbors could be upset with how a neighbor is using their property and say, ‘Hey well, i own the next gate property so i should be able to sue. ‘”

The church, in another court case, is seeking ownership of the 2-acre parcel and has accepted certain restrictions requested by the city.

In 2019, a generation-old question of who actually owns the green was resolved after two years of negotiations and court hearings, giving most of the property to the city – to the exclusion of the parcel of the church – and to the conservation authority over 95% of the green at the historical society.

Previously, it was determined that the green actually belonged to the “heirs and assigns” of 51 original owners – the 17th and early 18th century investors in the property. The city historian estimated that there could be around 10,000 descendants of the original landowners and most of them would have to approve any changes in the use of the land.

City officials, in a court case seeking to declare the city the owner of properties on the green, published a notice in local newspapers looking for these “heirs and assigns,” but none came forward.

Green has changed little over the past few centuries. It is bordered by several historic buildings, now tourist attractions, including the houses of the Governor from the days of the Revolutionary War, Jonathan Trumbull and William Williams, signatory of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the office of the Connecticut War of Independence, which was visited by George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and the heroes of the American Revolution.


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