September 17, 2005

Kelo Residents Update: CT Governor Strikes Back

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:29 pm

I don’t know that it does anything more than delay the inevitable, but the governor has temporarily faced down the Kelo tyrants:

Rell Forces Withdrawal Of Eviction Notices

Gov. M. Jodi Rell forced the New London Development Corp. on Friday to rescind eviction notices served on residents whose homes were taken by eminent domain.

The city’s development arm buckled under pressure by Rell, who could conceivably hold back state money necessary for the city’s Fort Trumbull economic development project.

But the dispute re-energized calls for a statutory moratorium on land-takings until the General Assembly can agree on how to permanently limit the use of eminent domain – suddenly a potent political issue for the 2006 gubernatorial and legislative races.

House Republicans launched a petition drive Friday to force a special session on eminent domain, a possibility since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Fort Trumbull takings in June.

Special sessions are typically called by either the governor or the legislature’s top leaders, but legislators also can petition themselves into session by gathering signatures from a majority of both chambers.

Rell has refused to call a special session without a consensus on how to curb eminent domain, but she supports the petition drive.

“If enough legislators sign the petition, that will be an indication that a majority is now willing to act,” said Judd Everhart, a Rell spokesman.

House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, R-North Branford, said he wants the legislature to immediately adopt a statutory moratorium on land-takings, which would remain in effect until the General Assembly can agree on how to limit public land-takings.

“We want the moratorium to be mandatory and binding and to include the homeowners in New London,” Ward said.

Wesley Horton, a lawyer who represented New London and the development corporation before the Supreme Court, said he was unsure how legislative action could return ownership of the contested homes.

“The plaintiffs don’t own the property. The litigation is over with. In terms of getting the property back to the residents, I don’t know how you do it” by legislation, Horton said.

Using the leverage the state enjoys as a financier of the project, Rell has urged the development corporation to incorporate some of the homes into the redevelopment plan and return ownership to the holdouts.

She thought progress was being made until the development corporation served eviction notices, telling the residents they would have to pay rent and then vacate in 30 to 90 days.

Legislators said the eviction notices were a political and public-relations blunder, igniting calls in New London for wholesale leadership changes at the development corporation and engaging the governor and legislators in Hartford.

….. “The governor appreciates the fact the NLDC has done the right thing and sent out this new round of letters,” Everhart said. “It was unfortunate it had to come to this.”

“It was stupid,” Ward said.

The development corporation did not return a call for comment.

Despite the withdrawal of the eviction notices, the NLDC has a Supreme Court ruling on their side. The Governor’s action is laudable, but it seems that any temporary victory will be hollow unless NLDC leaders are replaced with those who will repudiate their Kelo victory, or unless the state funding referred to is formally withdrawn.

I don’t see how any action of the legislature other than passing a withdrawal of funding can stop the NLDC from eventually carrying the ruling through to its completion. It would seem difficult to retroactively apply any new statute that would revise existing state eminent-domain law.

Meanwhile, where are the beneficiaries of this government taking? Is there no downside for Pfizer if this taking ultimately goes through? Somebody ought to at least attempt to get the company to tell us what they make of all this.

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