Court to hear condemnation for economic development case


Kelo v. City of New London is headed to the Supreme Court. This case is about a neighborhood in New London, Connecticut, which city officials saw fit to condemn, not because the area was blighted, not because the land was needed for widening a road or constructing an important public facility, but because the city officials thought the property would generate more tax revenue if a certain private company owned it. This abuse of property rights and the power of eminent domain is becoming increasingly common, and here's hoping the Supreme Court affirms the Bill of Rights which clearly says that government can only take private property for public use, not for someone else's private use.

The Institute for Justice is defending the rights of the small businesses and homeowners who would be displaced by this scheme. You can find their press release here, which has a link to their certiorari brief asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the brief's statement:

Petitioner Wilhelmina Dery was born in her house in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Connecticut in 1918. She lives there now, as she has for her entire life, along with her husband of over fifty years and the rest of her family. She and her neighbors, the other Petitioners in this case, stand to lose their homes through eminent domain to make way for private business development.

Mrs. Dery’s city government and a private development corporation hope that the new development projects will create more tax revenue and jobs than the homes that currently occupy this peninsula of land along the Thames River. Petitioners have poured their labor and love into their homes. They are places where they have lived for years, have raised their families, and have grown old.
Petitioners do not want money or damages. They merely seek to stop the use of eminent domain to take away their most sacred and important of possessions: their homes.

The Fort Trumbull neighborhood originally consisted of approximately 115 land parcels with a mixture of homes and small businesses. On January 18, 2000,
respondent City of New London (“the City”) adopted the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan (“development plan”) as prepared by respondent New London
Development Corporation (“NLDC”), a private, nonprofit development corporation. ...

The NLDC will own the land located in the development area but lease it to private developers. App. 6. At the time of the trial, the NLDC was negotiating with Corcoran Jennison, a private developer, to enter into a ninety-nine year lease for development projects in parcels 1, 2, and 3 of the area. Under the terms of the lease, Corcoran Jennison would pay the NLDC the rent of $1 per year. Corcoran Jennison would then develop the land and select tenants for the projects. When it adopted the development plan, the City delegated to the NLDC the power of eminent domain to acquire properties within the Fort Trumbull development area. In October 2000, the NLDC voted to use eminent domain to acquire the remaining properties in the Fort Trumbull area from owners who would not sell voluntarily, including homes owned by Petitioners. Starting in
November 2000, the NLDC began to file the condemnation actions against Petitioners that gave rise to the present case. The NLDC brought all condemnation actions in this case not under Connecticut’s urban renewal law (C.G.S. Chapter 130, §§ 8-124, et seq.), which permits the use of eminent domain to clear slums or blighted areas, but rather under C.G.S. Chapter 132, §§ 8-186, et seq., which governs Municipal Development Projects.

These cases are becoming more and more common, as tax-greedy governments are willing to do anything to increase the take, even if it means throwing their own citizens out of their homes. A town in upstate New York wanted to condemn a neighborhood to allow Ikea to build a new furniture store. A southern California city tried to seize part of a church's property in order to build a Costco discount warehouse store.

You can learn more about eminent domain abuse by visiting the Castle Coalition website and the Eminent Domain Watch blog.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 3, 2004 5:45 PM.

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