The Court May Have Ruled, But The Kelo Fight Continues

After the Kelo vs. New London case, in which the 4 liberal members of the Supreme Court (+ moderate Anthony Kennedy) gave the thumbs up to government house grabbers across the country, Americans were appalled. How in the world could members of the government be allowed to snatch your house just so they could hand it over to their developer buddies?

Fortunately, because of that outrage, not only have many states and Congress started taking steps to rein in the vast new powers for government that the Supreme Court incorrectly granted in Kelo, but the people involved in the original Kelo lawsuit may get to keep their homes. Read all about it right here:

“They have still not moved out. Not Susette Kelo. Not the Derys. Not Byron Athenian or Bill Von Winkle or the others.

Five months after the United States Supreme Court set off a national debate by ruling that the City of New London could seize their property through eminent domain to make way for new private development, no one has been forced to leave.

No bulldozers have arrived to level the last houses still standing, and none are expected soon.

Even though the holdouts lost their case, and the development that would displace them finally seems free to go forward, construction has not begun, and some elements of the project have been effectively paralyzed since the court ruling prompted a political outcry.

“I felt relaxed enough to get my checkbook out and put the new roof on,” said Mr. Von Winkle, who owns three buildings with a total of 12 occupied apartments in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood by the Thames River, where the city was sued for claiming 15 properties through eminent domain.

Ms. Kelo, also among the handful of holdouts, said, “We still have hope that we’ll get to keep our homes.”

It is not that Ms. Kelo and the others have chained themselves to their property in a final dramatic defiance of the law.

Instead, wary of public disapproval and challenges from groups like the Institute for Justice, the law firm that represented the holdouts in court, the state and the city have halted plans to evict the remaining residents. Investors are concerned about building on land that some people consider a symbol of property rights. At the same time, contract disputes and financial uncertainty have delayed construction even in areas that have been cleared.

With so many complications, some people are unsure whether the city’s initial vision for the property – a mix of housing, hotel and office space intended to transform part of its riverfront and bolster a declining tax base – is even realistic anymore.

“Winning took so long,” said Mayor Jane L. Glover, “that the plan may not be as viable in 2005 or 2006 or 2007.”

…The Connecticut General Assembly has asked cities to delay using eminent domain while it considers revising state law. Some city and state officials cite the difficulty in finding a balance between using eminent domain to rebuild blighted areas and preventing the potential for abuse that concerned Justice O’Connor.

…Amid all the debate, the Fort Trumbull project has stalled.

“This lawsuit put a chill on the development of the whole 90 acres, no doubt in my mind,” said Thomas J. Londregan, the city’s director of law. “Any developer knew that whatever they did would most likely be appealed to the courts.”

Contentiousness led to stalemate and stumbles. At one point the city severed ties with the New London Development Corporation, only to reverse itself days later under pressure from the state. A key corporation executive was forced out.

…If any construction begins soon, it will happen away from the area where the holdouts remain, said Marty Jones, president of Corcoran Jennison, which has been under contract on the project since 1999.

“We need to have some positive things happening so that every lender and investor I go to doesn’t say, ‘I want to be 100 miles away from here,’ ” Ms. Jones said. “Eminent domain in Fort Trumbull has been on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and it has not put New London in the most positive light.”

Despite losing in court, the holdouts have gained political leverage, largely through the public relations effort led by the Institute for Justice, Mr. Joplin said.

Scott G. Bullock, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice who argued for the resistant property owners before the Supreme Court, said, “We might have lost the battle, but the overall war is really going in our favor.”

“What developer is going to want to build on land that was received through probably the most universally despised Supreme Court decision in decades?” Mr. Bullock asked.

Governor Rell has hired a mediator to meet with the holdouts. The goal is to see what, if any, financial terms, beyond the outdated appraised value they have been offered, might persuade them to leave.

“I’m on the road to search for the proverbial win-win,” said the mediator, Robert R. Albright. “It’s an extraordinarily complex situation. It’s not a two-party situation by any means. I’m not sure I can honestly give you an option set or even fully describe the obstacles.”

Oh, so now, after the negative publicity has gotten to be too much, they’re looking for a “win-win.” If they’d actually started out looking for a “win-win” situation in the first place instead of trying to use the raw power of government to force homeowners to bend to their will, they would have either settled this amicably, one way or the other, years ago.

That should be a lesson to members of government, at every level, all across the United States. But unfortunately, once the spotlight goes off, you find that government is an arrogant, stupid creature that rarely takes to heart the harsh lessons it learned under the withering glare of public scrutiny. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast…

Hat tip to Althouse for the story.

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