Skip to comments.‘Plans' As A Ruse To Grab Land
Posted on 07/17/2005 6:13:48 AM PDT by FortRumbull
Plans' As A Ruse To Grab Land
Changes made to the 'plan' have shown how nebulous the supposed 'economic development' can be and how uncertain are the predicted benefits.
By NEILD OLDHAM Published on 7/17/2005
New London's attempt to use the power of eminent domain for economic development has provided a textbook case for why this power should not be so used. Changes made to the plan have shown how nebulous the supposed economic development can be and how uncertain are the predicted benefits.
The five justices referred to the carefully considered development plan in their June 23, 2005, opinion upholding the use of eminent domain to destroy homes and businesses in the Fort Trumbull area for economic development. Here is a brief history of this carefully considered Municipal Development Plan for the Fort Trumbull area since it was adopted:
The New London Development Corp. decided not to tear down the Italian Dramatic Club, which stands in the heart of the supposed development and close to the supposed hotel site.
Originally, homes were to be destroyed and replaced with a parking lot; then, over the course of time, it was to make room for a Coast Guard museum; or the homes would be destroyed for park support services; or the homes must be destroyed to widen the roads and for other infrastructure work.
The original plan put the Coast Guard museum in the former Naval Undersea Warfare Center. As noted, it was then moved to where the homes are. Recently it seems to have moved back to the NUWC site or maybe not.
The proposed five-star hotel is now going to be, maybe, a four- or three-star hotel, or maybe it will never be built. The original plan had Pfizer renting rooms in it. Pfizer now says it will no longer guarantee that.
Homes in another block were to be destroyed for an office building, which, we are told now, won't happen in the foreseeable future because the economic climate has changed.
The NLDC is still amending the plan and has been arguing with its major developer, Corcoran-Jennison, over what will be built there.
None of these rather major changes was subjected to public review and reaction and the fact they were made puts the lie to the assertion that this was a carefully considered development plan.
The five justices also referred to ...the thorough deliberation that preceded its adoption...
There were some public hearings and the final one, held as a City Council meeting at the high school, was well attended. Many, if not most, of those who spoke opposed the plan, noted that development of the area could be realized without destroying homes, and offered alternative plans. Immediately after the public comment period and with little debate, the council voted 6-1 to approve the plan. So much for the thorough deliberation that the five justices mention.
If ever a situation required judicial review as to its constitutionality, Kelo vs. New London did and does. It is abundantly clear to anyone with any knowledge of what is happening here that the term public use in the takings clause of the Constitution should be narrowly defined. To broaden the term use to mean benefit puts us on a very slippery slope indeed as this constantly changing plan for the Fort Trumbull area suggests.
Remarks by City Attorney Thomas Londregan, as quoted in The Day July 12, that the city or state should have used the excuse that they were removing a blighted neighborhood chillingly underscores the need to define public use very narrowly. As the attorney's remarks clearly imply, facts are irrelevant. If powerful officials want the land, all they need do is designate it as blighted.
In regard to the supposed benefits to save this depressed city, there is no concrete evidence supporting any of the claims made by the council and NLDC. Unfortunately, the local media insist on quoting these officials as though their statements about the supposed benefits were factual.
A conscientious journalist would use the modifier alleged when speaking of the touted benefits.
Also, one might argue that the depressed condition of the city has been somewhat exaggerated. There are problems, but the solution is not to continue destroying neighborhoods to build hotels and other commercial properties. New London has tried that already with little success. We might try something different, such as preserving the attractive, unique qualities of the city, which will result in an improved tax base.
Also, any effective solution to this small city's problems will require state and regional action. Unfortunately, as city officials continue to chase pipe dreams, they have little time to debate seriously realistic solutions.
Neild B. Oldham is a former president of the New London Historical Society. He lives in New London.
© The Day Publishing Co., 2005
You got it. In New London, property owners who spoke out were punished, and this happens time after time across the country. When property rights go down the drain, freedom of speech is next.
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