June 30, 2006

Kelo New London: It’s Over

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:16 pm

My reax: Less than satisfying, but probably as much as could have been hoped for in the circumstances.

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Go here for links to all previous
Kelo New London posts and a pre-
final settlement map of the area.

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Excerpts from The New London Day’s report on today’s final settlement (link will require registration after one day, and a paid subscription after seven days):

Kelo’s pink house to be relocated

Susette Kelo’s little pink cottage, the home that was the subject of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case and a national symbol of the fight over eminent domain, will be spared from the wrecking ball. In a compromise between Kelo and New London, the home will be saved and moved to another location, perhaps close to where it originally stood over a century ago, near Pequot Avenue.

….. “It is wonderful that Susette Kelo’s little pink house, which is a national symbol of the fight against eminent domain abuse, will remain standing,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, which continues to represent the remaining two homeowners.  ”The home will continue to serve as a tribute to her brave struggle and as a powerful symbol of the fight to stop land grabs by cities and their developer allies.”

“I am not happy about giving up my property, but I am very glad that my home, which means so much to me, will not be demolished and I will remain living in it,” said Kelo, the lead plaintiff in Kelo v. New London. “I proposed this as a compromise years ago and was turned down flat.”

….. Faced with eviction and the destruction of her beloved home, Kelo put forward an idea that she had originally proposed when first threatened with eminent domain abuse: preserving the home and moving it.

Fewer details were available concerning the Cristofaro settlement. The Cristofaros will lose their current home, but under the agreement, the city has agreed to support an application for more housing in Fort Trumbull, and the Cristofaro family has an exclusive right to purchase one of the homes at a fixed price.

Here’s more from the Institute for Justice’s press release (HT to Steve who posted earlier at the SOB Alliance site; bolds are mine):

Susette Kelo Lost Her Rights, She Lost Her Property, But She Has Saved Her Home

….. “I will be able to continue living in the home that means so much to me, with a real title to my property,” said Kelo. “Also, I will once again live in a neighborhood rather than a demolition zone.”

….. While Kelo’s agreement today signifies her deep attachment to her home, the agreement reached with the other remaining homeowner, the Cristofaros, reflects the family’s deep affiliation with the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, where they have lived for over 30 years. Although the Cristofaros will lose their current home, under the agreement, the City and the NLDC have agreed to support an application for more housing in Fort Trumbull, and the Cristofaro family has an exclusive right to purchase one of the homes at a fixed price. Moreover, a plaque will be installed in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to commemorate the loss of family matriarch Margherita Cristofaro, who passed away while the battle against eminent domain abuse occurred in New London.

“Neither the Kelo nor the Cristofaro family wanted to lose their homes, but they are each keeping some part of their homes,” added Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner.  ”Susette Kelo will keep her house, albeit in another location. The Cristofaros want to stay on the Fort Trumbull peninsula. This agreement gives them the right to own a home in Fort Trumbull when one is built. The City also has agreed to move the trees that father Pasquale Cristofaro transplanted 30 years ago, when the previous Cristofaro home was taken by eminent domain.”

“The New London case was history-making,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. “It is only fitting that the house that launched a grassroots revolt should be preserved.”

Amen.

Hats off to Susette Kelo for her perseverance, the Cristofaros for also hanging in, and to the Institute for Justice for staying with them through what had to be more than they ever thought they would have to go through in their worst-case scenario. Susette Kelo will own the title to her home, and in that sense, when you remember what the alternatives were, no one can deny that she in a major sense prevailed. I have to confess to strong disappointment that the Cristofaros did not get to keep their original home, but clean title to a newly-developed property in Fort Trumbull will at least mean that the last two holdouts will have held off the city for the right to own property in the neighborhood.

Now it’s up to the city and the NLDC to get cracking. They have a deadline to keep with the Cristofaros, as noted at this WTNH-TV report that has a totally wrong headline:

“We have the option to move back into the neighborhood which we will. That is something we will do,” Michael Christofaro said.

“If they develop?”

“Yes. If they develop, but we have a nine year option. I hope they’re gonna do something. I mean, if they can’t turn that thing around in nine years why did these people lose their homes?”

This is New London we’re talking about, Mike. They’ve had eight years already, and all they’ve done is tear things down. Now we get to see if they can put something up.

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UPDATE: Here’s more from the Associated Press report, including an opening sentence that unfortunately but accurately states the essence of the downside of the settlement:

The last two holdouts in New London’s Fort Trumbull neighborhood agreed Friday to give up their land to make way for private development, ending an eight-year battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

….. “I’m relieved, but it’s a sad day because the city doesn’t want us there,” said Michael Cristofaro, Pasquale’s son. “I’m going to have to see that house be torn down and you can bet I’ll be there when they tear that house down. I’m not going to let them get away with thinking that day is just going to come and go.”

Cristofaro credited Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a representative from the state Department of Economic and Community Development with getting involved in the final negotiations, treating the homeowners with compassion and understanding that small concessions were important.

“That’s what the city didn’t understand,” he said. “People have personal attachments to their property and money is not always what people want. These were concessions that the city didn’t even bother to try to make. They just wanted you out.”

….. Rell, in a written statement, said Friday that she was pleased the final agreements have been signed. She thanked Kelo and the Cristofaro for their willingness to “negotiate and responsibly settle this very difficult and painful issue.”

“Now these families can have some closure and the Fort Trumbull economic development project will go forward without delay, infusing new jobs and vitality into the region,” she said.

….. Rell said Friday that Connecticut should work to limit eminent domain when the next legislative session opens in January.

Cristofaro said he is not giving up on the issue.

“It’s a happy and sad day. I’m now able to get my life back, but the thing is, I will never stop fighting for people’s property rights across this nation,” he said. “There’s a lot of good things coming out because of our fight here in New London. People are uprising across the nation.”

I’d like to think that the fact that the city and the NLDC, armed as they were with their deeper-pocket legal advantage and even a Supreme Court ruling, were in the end still not able to simply roll over everyone involved, will give some comfort and encouragement to those resisting countless eminent-domain actions around the country. But it would be dangerous to think that the holdouts could have salvaged what they did without Governor Rell’s intervention. True, a referendum appeared to be headed for the ballot in New London, but how binding it would have been is at least somewhat debatable. The lesson for others trying to keep the eminent-domain monster at bay is that until meaningful legislation takes effect, the help of sympathetic politicians who follow through on their commitments will be essential to achieving any kind of success.

Mike Cristofaro is right, that the struggle against the tyranny of extra-constitutional eminent domain is far from over. I personally don’t think we’ll see a definitive end to it without either defining legislation from Congress or a Supreme Court reversal.

UPDATE 2: Apparently there has been no comment from the high-powered, politically-connected Italian Dramatic Club, which despite its location in the Fort Trumbull Peninsula, was exempted from eminent domain action by the city and the NLDC.

UPDATE 3: What is it with these weak headlines? Here’s The Washington Post — “Eminent Domain Case Holdouts Leave Homes.” Uh, no; Susette Kelo is keeping hers.

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2 Comments

  1. Kelo Saga Concludes:

    Tom Blumer reports that in the end Susette Kelo saved her house, but not her land. Her house will be spared and physically relocated to another parcel of land. As for the other rem…

    Trackback by The Volokh Conspiracy — July 1, 2006 @ 10:53 am

  2. Old business in New London

    Those of us who grumbled about Kelo v. New London will get some small measure of satisfaction out of this: Susette Kelo’s little pink cottage, the home that was the…

    Trackback by dustbury.com — July 1, 2006 @ 8:40 pm

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