Rell seeks limit on eminent domain: Stamford (CT) Advocate, 7/30/05

Governor backs seizure of new London homes
By Tobin A. Coleman

Gov. M. Jodi Rell wants the Legislature to craft a proposal to limit the power of eminent domain, but believes the New London redevelopment project that sparked what has become a national controversy should move forward.

The homeowners who challenged the city and lost should have their houses spared if at all possible, she said.

At her regular monthly news conference, the governor said she planned to meet yesterday afternoon with her legal staff to discuss specifics of the "very complicated and very personal" issue of eminent domain Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled New London has the right to take homes and give them to a private developer for an economic development project.

Rell quoted the dissenting opinion of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who sided with the Fort Trumbull, New London, neighborhood homeowners in their claim that one person's private property should not be turned over to another private entity merely because a city can raise more tax revenue from the new development.

"Her statement has been used largely to encourage more people to become involved, and that is, who knows, it could be your private home that is next to be used for a strip mall," Rell said. "While she was in the dissenting opinion, that has really triggered a lot of reaction from people all across the nation."

Rell said the state has "a lot of money invested in that project and it should go forward." But she added: "If there is a question, can we co-exist with those houses that are currently there, I think we should make every effort to do so. In areas where we have already taken property by eminent domain, in those areas it was a blighted area, and by all means that was a good use of eminent domain."

She added that she hopes the Legislature, which this week held hearings on changing the law, would not overreact because of the strong national reaction to the decision.

Stamford Advocate: www.stamfordadvocate.com