Topic:
BONDS; MUNICIPAL FINANCE; MUNICIPALITIES; PROPERTY TAX; SPECIAL DISTRICTS;
Location:
MUNICIPALITIES; SPECIAL DISTRICTS;

OLR Research Report


December 15, 2006

 

2006-R-0789

GROTON LONG POINT ASSOCIATION

By: John Rappa, Principal Analyst

You asked why the legislature created the Groton Long Point Association (GLPA) and whether it meant the GLPA to be a public or private corporation. The Office of Legislative Research cannot give legal opinions and you should not regard this report as one.

SUMMARY

It seems the legislature created the GLPA so that Groton Long Point's seasonal, out-of-town residents could obtain municipal services and finance them with property taxes in addition to those levied by the town. While the legislative record for the 1921 act that created the GLPA contains no statement of legislative intent on this or any other related point, the types of municipal services the act authorizes are similar to those the legislature has authorized by the special and general laws governing special tax districts. The legislature authorized these districts so that an area's residents could obtain services the host town could not or would not provide. Public hearing testimony on a 1931 amendment to the act establishing the GLPA also suggests this was the case.

The record provides no information on whether the legislature meant to create the GLPA as a public or private corporation, but the act's provisions and public hearing testimony on the 1931 amendment suggest the former. The 1921 act constituted the GLPA as a “body

corporate and politic,” a term the legislature applies to organizations fulfilling a public or governmental purpose. At the 1931 hearing, a speaker flatly stated that the GLPA was a municipal corporation after the amendment's drafter stated that that only the courts could discern the GLPA's status.

Other provisions of the 1921 act are similar to those found in the special and general laws governing special tax districts. These provisions define the GLPA's governing structure and authorize the GLPA to levy taxes, impose special assessments, and issue bonds.

GLPA'S INTENDED PURPOSE

1921 Act

The legislature created the GLPA in 1921, but the legislative record provides no information as to why it did so. (Then, the legislature transcribed only public hearing testimony, but apparently no hearing was held on the bill). Special Law 280's provisions suggest that the legislature created the GLPA as a way to allow Groton Long Point residents to obtain services Groton could or would not provide. During that time, the legislature created special taxing districts for largely the same reason. (Now, the statutes allow residents to create these districts on their own without requesting special legislation).

The act authorizes the GLPA to provide services special tax districts provide under similar special acts or the statutes. These services include extinguishing fires, maintaining and lighting streets, planting trees, laying out sidewalks, providing police protection, constructing sewers, and removing garbage. It also authorizes the GLPA to construct and maintain docks and dredge harbors and creeks. The act allows the GLPA to finance these services and projects by levying property taxes and special benefit assessments.

1931 Act and Public Hearing Testimony

SL 425, 1931, expanded GLPA's authority to obtain drinking water. The public hearing testimony it generated further suggests that the legislature originally created the GLPA as a way for Groton Long Point residents to obtain municipal services. Attorney C. Hadlai Hull stated that the value of the association's grand list increased during the decade as more residents built or improved homes or decided to live there permanently.

The Point is growing rapidly. The class of houses is far better than it was some years ago. There are a number of people living there permanently now. As times goes on, it simply means the development of a community into a permanent community which prior to that time was a summer living place (Committee on Cities and Boroughs, April 7, 1931, p. 212).

It appears that the new homes and the growing permanent population strained the wells that supplied most of the Point's water. Apparently, the GLPA's power to secure water under the 1921 act was insufficient. That act allowed the GLPA to procure water from the Groton Long Point Land Company and required the Public Utilities Commission to set the rate if the two parties could not agree on one. It also allowed the GLPA to buy the water company's plant and equipment, acquire and operate water systems, and take land it needed to supply water. The GLPA could do the latter under the statute allowing government to take land for highway purposes.

The 1931 act allowed GLPA to take land, springs, streams, or ponds if the Superior Court found that the GLPA could not “obtain sufficient supply of water on reasonable terms and conditions from any such [public or private] corporation authorized to supply water to any municipality in the town of Groton” (SL 425, 1). The act also expanded GLPA's authority to develop, manage, and fund water works systems.

THE GLPA'S CORPORATE STATUS

It appears that the legislature meant to create the GLPA as a public corporation. While the legislative record contains no information specifying the legislature's intention, SL 280 contains many provisions found in other special and general laws governing special taxing districts.

Body Corporate and Politic

SL 280 created the association as a “body corporate and politic” ( 1), a term the statutes do not define but generally use in reference to public entities such as special tax districts (CGS 7-325), public housing authorities (CGS 8-44), and regional educational service centers (CGS 10-66c).

Black's Law Dictionary seems to support this conclusion, even though it defines “body corporate” and “politic” separately. While “body corporate” includes public and private entities, “body politic” means “a group of people regarded in a political (rather than private) sense and organized as single governmental authority.” Adding the term “politic” to “body corporate” allows GLPA residents to collectively exercise a portion of the state's power. (The Office of Policy and Management identified the GLPA as a special tax district in its 1988 report on the subject (p. 16).

Even though the act constituted the GLPA as a body corporate and politic, speakers differed over the association's corporate status at the public hearing on the 1931 amendment. Hull suggested that the GLPA was a private corporation:

There was a private act in 1921, which incorporated the grants to the powers of a private corporation. Later grants gave certain rights to police, fire protection and things of that nature which pertain to municipal corporations and then there is another (sic) section which is 27 of this private act—“said Association shall have all powers granted to boroughs.” It is a nice legal question as to what is this corporation. I don't think any lawyer would hazard a guess until the Superior Court has passed on it (pp. 212-213).

Mr. Waller of New London (the transcript did not give his full name and title) stated that the GLPA was a municipal corporation:

Mr. Hull is a good lawyer and he is a good enough lawyer to know that the act of 1921 created a municipal corporation. There isn't any question about it. They have more rights than any town in the State. They have a whole lot of express right. On top of all that in 27 they have all the rights of boroughs under the general laws. They can't raise the question in the mind of any lawyer that this Association is a municipal corporation. It is a political subdivision of the State, has governmental powers the same as a borough. The State of Connecticut isn't giving to a private corporation the right of government and rights of boroughs… (p. 218).

Taxation and Assessments

The state shares its power to tax with municipalities and special tax districts. The act explicitly constitutes the GLPA as a “separate taxing district within such town” ( 21). As such, the GLPA can tax all taxable real and personal property and set a tax rate ( 23). It also has the “same powers as towns and collectors of taxes to collect and enforce payment of such taxes, and such taxes when laid shall be a lien upon the property in the same manner as towns taxes, …” ( 23). These powers are similar to those granted special tax districts (CGS 7-328).

The act also allows the GLPA to assess property owners who “specially benefit” from new sewers it constructs ( 11) and charge them for half of the cost of constructing or repairing sidewalks that adjoin their properties ( 25). Likewise, the statutes also allow special tax districts to assess owners for sewers and sidewalks that specially benefit them (CGS 7-328).

Bonds

The act allows the GLPA to issue bonds to pay for public works and land purchases. The bonds' value cannot exceed 10% of the GLPA's next preceding grand list. The act specifies how the GLPA must issue and secure the bonds ( 28). Special tax districts formed under the statutes can also issue bonds (CGS 7-328).

Governance

The act requires the GLPA's “legal voters” to hold an annual meeting at which they must elect a president, vice president, clerk, treasurer, and five directors and specifies their duties and responsibilities; allows these officers to call special meetings; and specifies the procedure they must follow when calling these and annual meetings ( 12-20). Districts organized under the statutes must comply with similar requirements (CGS 7-327).

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