Eminent-Domain Battle Flares in Connecticut: Washington (DC) post, 9/14/05

Associated Press

A group that won a Supreme Court victory allowing it to seize property for private development is telling some residents to vacate their homes in the latest flash point in a nationwide controversy.

Representatives of the homeowners accused the quasi-public New London Development Corp. on Tuesday of reneging on a promise not to seize the properties while lawmakers considered changing the state's eminent-domain laws.

State House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward (R) called for a special session to enact a moratorium on property seizures, and homeowners vowed to continue fighting.

"They're going to have to pry my cold fingers from the house," said Michael Cristofaro, who received one of several vacate notices sent this week.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R) and state lawmakers had urged local governments to refrain from seizing property for development. Rell also favors a special session on the issue, a spokesman said.

But because the state had previously sanctioned the city's use of eminent domain for the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, it was unclear whether lawmakers could make New London delay its plans.

The notices order the property owners and tenants to vacate within 30 to 90 days and start paying rent to the development corporation during that period, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington-based group representing the homeowners. If residents do not comply, the agency has the option of pursuing an eviction in court.

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in June that New London could take homes in Fort Trumbull to build a privately owned hotel and office space. The court also said states are free to ban the taking of property for such projects.

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