Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Almost a decade after the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London “economic development” counts as a public use under the Fifth Amendment, the Kelo condemnation site still lies empty. Now, New London Mayor Justin Finizio, has proposed making the property into a more traditional public use:
The 2005 Supreme Court decision in New London v. Kelo [sic], in which the court by a 5-4 majority constitutionally validated the New London Development Corp.’s use of eminent domain to purchase and raze the homes of Fort Trumbull residents who refused to sell, remains a “black stain” on the city, said its mayor
NLDC wanted to clear the site to attract large corporate development and expand the city’s tax base. Its judicial triumpth proved a pyrrhic victory, the decision widely despised for interpreting “public use” to include the government taking the property of citizens to turn over to private developers. Count the New London mayor among the despisers. He characterized the Kelo decision as a “corruption of the constitutional interpretation of public use.”
Fort Trumbull has seen no new construction since the bulldozers departed the flattened neighborhood.
Mayor Finizio said he would like New London to symbolically overturn Kelo by undertaking a true “public use” of the seized private properties. He offered as an example a parking garage, under discussion recently as a means of meeting the parking demands generated by Electric Boat’s offices in the former Pfizer buildings, the one major project resulting from NLDC’s corporate development vision.
This would not be any municipal parking garage, but one with solar panels to power it, landscaping and design to fit it into the setting, and first-floor shops to generate revenues.
“What really gets us beyond the eminent domain debacle may be effectively overturning the Kelo opinion if not de jure before the Supreme Court, then de facto in the city of New London,” said Finizio. “What (New London) justified this (eminent domain seizure) on was generating private development for economic development purposes, but what we are actually going to do is create public development for economic development purposes.”