Kelo Update: Guess What New Developer Wants Before Going Forward?

In its infamous June 2005 Kelo vs. New London ruling, a Supreme Court majority allowed the city of New London to seize the properties of holdout homeowners in that city's Fort Trumbull area for the "public purpose" of economic development, not a "public use" as the Constitution's Fifth Amendment requires.

It has been eleven years since the litigation began, six years since the court's ruling, and almost five years since the final settlement between the City and final holdouts the Cristofaro family and Susette Kelo, whose former home now stands elsewhere as a de facto monument to the perils of overbearing government. The land involved is still vacant, and nothing of substance has since happened. In late 2009, Pfizer, the economic linchpin which supposedly drove the city's need to remake the area, announced that it was pulling out of New London.

After several false starts, the city is working with a new developer. As of February of last year, this developer wanted to put rental townhouses in an area where century-old, largely owner-occupied homes once stood.

Early Friday, the New London Day's Kathleen Edgecomb reported a new twist. Wait until you see what the developer wants before going forward.

Yep, tax abatements:

Would-be Fort Trumbull developers seek tax break

 

A developer hoping to build housing at Fort Trumbull said Thursday they will seek tax abatements from the city to move the project forward.

 

Robert and Irwin Stillman, the father and son owners of Westport-based River Bank Construction, said the abatements were necessary to make the project financially feasible.

 

"If abatements are not approved, we would have to reconsider,'' Robert Stillman said during a meeting Thursday afternoon with The Day's editorial board.

 

The city has granted tax abatements to two other residential developments over the past few years, including Harbour Towers and Shaw's Landing, both on Bank Street.

 

Michael Joplin, president of the New London Development Corp., said the city should offer the abatements because it will help increase homeownership and eventually bring in more taxes.

 

The NLDC does not look at short-term economic rewards, he said. Rather, it seeks to increase the tax base and create economic development that will be (sic) span the next 30 to 40 years.

 

The Stillmans said they expect the two-bedroom units, which make up 70 percent of the construction, to sell between $300,000 and $375,000. They will first be available as rental units and then sold as condominiums when the real-estate market improves.

 

"Our intent is to sell the units,'' Irwin Stillman said. "We do not own a single rental unit. Our history is, we are not renters.''

 

The 90-acre Fort Trumbull development area has been an ongoing issue in the city for more than 10 years. The NLDC presented a plan in 2000 that the city approved that in essence leveled nearly all the buildings in Fort Trumbull to make way for new construction. Several property owners fought the eminent domain taking of their land all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where eventually justices ruled in favor of the city.

Edgecomb continued what is now a disgraceful five-year tradition at The Day of not mentioning "Kelo" any time it writes a story concerning the Fort Trumbull area.

The establishment press is in the sixth year of its own tradition: Not following up on what has really happened in the area involved in the most important and disastrous property-rights ruling in several decades. Perhaps they'd prefer that the country not be aware of the post-Kelo reality, because it might cause average people who aren't necessarily politically active to question the "wisdom" of the elites who think they can do a better job with the nation's land and other resources than private property owners.

In its opinion (scroll to Section IV), the Justices opined in 2005 that "The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including–but by no means limited to–new jobs and increased tax revenue." In 2011, a city which could have collected five more years of property taxes from established homeowners by now is instead contemplating and appears likely to approve tax breaks to a developer of rental units it hopes to convert to condos when the real estate market gets better. 

This outcome makes a complete mockery of the Supreme Court majority's belief that a "carefully formulated ... economic development plan" was ever in place. The press's five-year lack of coverage makes a mockery of its claim to be interested in meaningful story follow-up.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.