Thursday, June 23, 2005

Supreme Court: New London May Seize Fort Trumbull for Private Development

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, decided today that cities may indeed take land through eminent domain for private redevelopment. This apparently now qualifies as public use under the Constitution.

There are some good places to go for the full story and analysis:

AP Story

Connecticut Law Blog

SCOTUSblog (there are also links to opinions here)

I think it stinks. Private development that will only tangentially affect the lives of most people in New London is at the very fringes of "public use." Here is what Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had to say:

Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded–i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public–in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings “for public use” is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property–and thereby effectively to delete the words “for public use” from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. (link to opinion)

This is a very slippery slope, as Justice O'Connor realizes.

So now what was once a perfectly functional working-class neighborhood will be destroyed, to be replaced by shops, apartments and entertainment for the well-to-do, in the hopes that some of the money generated might somehow find its way down to the people of New London. This is the public good? I can't see the justice in it. I just can't.


Ed said...

Blue Back sqaure anyone? I used to live on the street right next to where its going up. I glad I moved ebcause the house could now be seixed by the government so we can install a baby Gap.

Ebpie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ebpie said...

I am a student at Connecticut College in New London and am pretty torn on this issue. On one hand people being forcibly evicted from their homes for no reason other than living in a desirable spot is never a good thing. I can't imagine working your whole life for a house only to be told by a developer you have x amount of time to leave. On the other hand New London could really use some commercial development. Rarely do my peers venture into town for any reason other then to eat at the Thai or Indian restaurant. Mystic and Groton are far more desirable places to visit and spend our money. If New London had some new attractions then it might pump in some much needed revenue into the city and improve the quality of life. As I said I am not sure where I stand on this. Hopefully, in the long run, the development of Ft. Trumbull will help the city and the region at a time when it could really use it.

Pseudo-intellectual lunatic said...

your blog is really cool.

Genghis Conn said...


New London might very well be better off encouraging commercial development in the existing downtown rather than building new things. There's plenty of empty spaces, as you well know.

The problem is exactly what you say: it MIGHT pump needed money into the tax base, the quality of life MIGHT go up. But then again, it might not. Your average New Londoner may not see much of a change at all. It's very much a crapshoot.

P.S. Conn is my alma mater (B.A. English, 2000)! So I know exactly what you're talking about--attitudes towards New London haven't changed one bit.

Ed said...

THe odest thing about this decision is the Justices position on it.

I am a liberal and am against the decision, yet it was the liberals that made the majority opinion. I am on the side of Scalia and Thomas. I feel like I need a shower....

Robb Black said...


I am from Maryland and am very upset about the decision. I've been trying to find the name of a community organization that is leading the fight against this project. Does anyone have a website to post for me? I would like to assist in any way possible.

To the college student: Look up concepts like "sustainable" development and "local economies". Bulldozing existing homes to put corporate franchises in their place is NOT a sustainable practice and is a SHORT TERM economic fix, not a long term solution.