July 30, 2009

Four Years After Kelo Ruling, Now-Barren Area Still Needs ‘Springboard’

Four years ago, on June 23, 2005, a 6-3 Supreme Court majority ruled in Kelo v. New London that the New London, Connecticut government could condemn houses in that city’s Fort Trumbull area in the name of redevelopment. A bit over a year later, the city settled with the area’s final two holdouts, the Cristofaro family and Susette Kelo.

Since then the city has without success tried to engage a developer to build a hotel on part of the now-leveled area, and to put apartments or condos on the rest. Yes, you read that right; they’re building residences where residences used to be.

The idea behind the hotel was that it would serve as lodging for visitors to the anticipated U.S. Coast Guard Museum.

Now, as reported in last Friday’s New London Day, it seems that even the Museum’s ultimate presence in Fort Trumbull is in serious doubt:

Coast Guard museum plan on hold
Shelving of project disappoints city officials still looking for Fort Trumbull springboard

Plans for a Coast Guard museum, which city officials have long hoped would be the impetus for economic development at Fort Trumbull, have been put on hold.

Citing lackluster fundraising figures and a stagnant economy, the National Coast Guard Museum Association and the Coast Guard Foundation voted unanimously Thursday to postpone the $65 million project.

Jerry Ostermiller will step down as president of the Museum Association, a job he has held since January.

”This doesn’t mean we’ve given up on the project, it means we’ll put it on the shelf until the economic climate improves,” said Anne Brengle, foundation president.

Most of the rest of the article consists of city officials and politicians absurdly pretending that the news is no big deal. But a Day editorial punctured that nonsense:

New game plan

It would be hard to come up with more deflating news for the prospects of economic development in Fort Trumbull than the announcement Thursday that the Coast Guard Foundation is suspending its effort to raise funds for the construction of the National Coast Guard Museum.

…. Whether the revival of the museum project is possible when the economy improves is questionable at best. Association leaders say it will be at least a year before they are in a position to try. Many people donated generously to get this far. They will not jump back in easily.

The New London Development Corp. was counting on the museum and construction of an adjacent hotel as the linchpin for Fort Trumbull redevelopment. This newspaper has previously expressed concerns that the NLDC’s plans were too dependent on this one project. NLDC mentions the museum a dozen times in its development plan, to the exclusion of almost anything else.

The city must be open to other development possibilities on the 90-acre tract. Commiserating about the museum serves no purpose. The Fort Trumbull peninsula is prime waterfront land with significant potential when the economy improves.

The “New Game Plan” title of the Day’s editorial is an admission that there is currently “no game plan.”

This situation is especially infuriating because a primary underpinning of the Supreme Court’s decision twisting the 5th Amendment’s “public use” clause and allowing the city’s condemnation and takeover of the area was the judicial majority’s confidence that city elders knew what they were doing, as noted in this paragraph from the ruling itself (bolds are mine):

The city’s determination that the area at issue was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to deference. The city has carefully formulated a development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including, but not limited to, new jobs and increased tax revenue. As with other exercises in urban planning and development, the city is trying to coordinate a variety of commercial, residential, and recreational land uses, with the hope that they will form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. To effectuate this plan, the city has invoked a state statute that specifically authorizes the use of eminent domain to promote economic development. Given the plan’s comprehensive character, the thorough deliberation that preceded its adoption, and the limited scope of this Court’s review in such cases, it is appropriate here …. to resolve the challenges of the individual owners, not on a piecemeal basis, but rather in light of the entire plan. Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the Fifth Amendment.

With nothing but barren land and no prospects for improvement four years later, how much more foolish can the Court majority possibly look?

One should also not forget that the high-powered, politically-connected Italian Dramatic Club was outrageously spared from the wrecking ball in a blatant act of city favoritism. As was ruefully stated as this sad process unfolded, “The Italian Dramatic Club can stay, but the Italians have to go.”

Despite all of the attention the original case commanded, the decision’s inactive aftermath has been virtually ignored by the establishment press. The news of the Coast Guard Museum’s suspension is no different. A Google News Search on ["New London" Coast Guard Museum] (typed as indicated between brackets) has four listings, all from Nutmeg State media outlets.

Why is this continued monument to judicial malfeasance and government ineptitude not getting more attention? I would suggest that the known biases present in the establishment media cause that question to answer itself.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Share

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.