It has been nearly three years since the Kelo v. New London ruling by the US Supreme Court, and just short of two years since the city of New London, CT settled with the final two Fort Trumbull holdouts, Susette Kelo and the Cristofaro family.
The Supreme Court's majority, in their June 2005 Kelo ruling, declared that "public use" as stated in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution really means "public purpose" -- that is, instead of the government being able to take land through eminent domain only for the purpose of building a public structure or creating a public service (road, bridge, school, park, etc.), the government can take land for any reason it believes a worthy one. In the case of New London, the city believed that demolishing occupied, functioning houses that had stood for over 100 years and developing "something else" that would garner the city more tax revenues was a worthy public purpose.
What has been done with the property since then?
As a development-related deadline loomed in mid-May, a Hartford TV station filed this report, and gave us the answer:
Plans Stall In Fort Trumbull
Land Remains Barren After Homes Torn Down
Next month marks the third anniversary of the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed the city of New London to use the power of eminent domain. But, not much progress has been made in Fort Trumbull, leaving some wondering whether the homeowners were forced out for nothing.
..... Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Kevin Hogan reported that where homes once stood, the land is now barren.
He reported that Corcoran and Jennison is having problems securing the $18 million that's needed to build the townhouses.
The city said the clock on its extension to find the funding is running out.
Two weeks later, Corcoran Jennison failed to secure the financing required for the project (New London Day links in this post will last only a few days; a paid subscription is required after that):
'It's Over' For Corcoran Jennison, NLDC
The Corcoran Jennison company has lost its exclusive right to develop nearly the entire northern half of the Fort Trumbull peninsula, officials from the New London Development Corp. said in an interview Friday with the editorial board of The Day.
”We signed a development agreement with CJ, and now we're without one,” said an unequivocal NLDC President Michael Joplin. “There is no preferred developer at the fort.”
”It's over,” corporation Vice President Karl-Erik Sternlof said of the company's agreement with the NLDC to be the sole developer of a hotel, a 7-acre office parcel and more than 100 housing units.
That agreement, which has been extended four times since 2001, expired at 5 p.m. Thursday when Corcoran Jennison failed to meet a critical deadline to secure financing for its $18.7 million rental complex of 66 apartments and 14 townhouses.
..... Corcoran Jennison officials have said a slowed housing market and stingy lending climate had widened the housing plan's “financing gap” to more than $3 million. That gap assumed a nearly $12 million loan and a 20 percent - or $4 million - investment from the Boston company.
..... Sternlof said the NLDC's own consultant believes that it may be two to three years before any developer could realize a profit by bringing housing to Fort Trumbull.
A New London Day editorial tried to put lots of lipstick on a very ugly pig:
It's time for a fresh look at Fort Trumbull. Yes, the economy is anemic and credit is tight, but there may be a developer out there with a viable plan.
That's the potential silver lining in the Corcoran Jennison cloud. The city now has the chance to at least find out if there is someone else out there who has the wherewithal to breathe new life into Fort Trumbull.
The Municipal Development Plan for the 90-acre peninsula was developed a decade ago and based on a comprehensive environmental evaluation of the property. The major components include the housing, hotel, office space and a museum. Mr. Joplin said there is wide latitude within the plan to tweak the various components.
..... The state has a big stake in what happens at Fort Trumbull. It has invested about $180 million in the neighborhood - including about $80 million on the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan, $25 million for Fort Trumbull State Park; and sizeable outlays for acquisition and remediation of a former scrap metal yard, waste water facility upgrades and incentives for Pfizer Inc., which located its global headquarters adjacent to the old Fort Trumbull neighborhood.
Apparently, "Kelo" is the word that shall not be uttered at the New London Day. It appears in neither of the two Day articles I reviewed.
Dozens of destroyed homes and surely more than $200 million later, including costs and lost property taxes to the city, there's nothing. And, based on current plans, if the project ever comes to pass, the NLDC will have replaced a bunch of homes with ..... a bunch of homes.
Even though the property involved was the subject of the case that, in the absence of overriding legislation, fundamentally changed the nature of the government-property owner relationship, various news searches indicate that the project's starting-over status is apparently not "newsworthy" enough for national exposure.
It's as if news organizations believe that no one is interested in how things have really worked out on the ground. I doubt that very much. I've seen plenty of "years later, nothing's been done" stories covered over the several decades I have followed the news. Why not this one?
Perhaps it's because a lot of people would react as one commenter did to the Day's editorial:
People were forced from their homes in order to please the greedy, gouging local government's quest for more tax money. The complete disrespect by the NLDC, The NL Day, the City of New London and the US Supreme Court towards the sovereign right to own property must never be forgiven.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.