Commissioner of Transportation v. Towpath Associates

In Commissioner of Transportation v. Towpath Associates, 255 Conn. 529, 767 A.2d 1169 (2001), it appears that the concept of assemblage was implicit in the trial court's analysis, rather than explicitly applied. Id. at 547-48. According to the Supreme Court, "the fact that the most profitable use of a parcel can be made only in combination with other lands does not necessarily exclude that use from consideration if the possibility of combination is reasonably sufficient to affect market value. . . . There must be a reasonable probability that the owner could use this tract together with the other parcels for such purposes or that another could acquire all lands or easements necessary for that use." Id. at 548. "If a prospective, integrated use is the highest and best use of the land, can be achieved only through combination with other parcels of land, and combination of the parcels is reasonably probable, then evidence concerning assemblage, and, ultimately, a finding that the land is specially adaptable for that highest and best use, may be appropriate. . . . The consideration of a future change in the use of the parcel taken and the effect that such a change may have on the market value at the time of the taking has long been recognized in Connecticut, and the use of property in conjunction with other parcels may affect value if it is shown that such an integrated use reasonably would have occurred in the absence of the condemnation." Id. at 549-50. Conversely, "a finding that the property is adaptable for its highest and best use is not warranted if the parcels' adaptability depends upon speculative or remote possibilities that the lands may be assembled for that use." Id. at 550. In Towpath Associates, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's assessments of damages awards to two separate defendants for the taking of their properties by eminent domain, concluding that the evidence did not support a finding that absent the taking, the two properties would have been assembled and devoted to the use contemplated by the trial court when it valued the property to assess damages. The properties at issue consisted of small parcels situated on opposite banks of a river, each of which housed an abandoned stone bridge abutment and railroad track bed. Id. at 531. Relying on testimony that the highest and best use of each property was as a bridge site, connecting the abutments, the trial court valued each property and its abutment based on that specialized adaptability. The Supreme Court disagreed with that approach because on the record presented, the possibility that either the two property owners or some third party purchaser of their parcels, other than the condemnor, would in the near future construct a bridge thereon was not reasonably probable but rather, "'remote and speculative.'" Id. at 553.