It’s been a decade since the city of New London, Conn. forcibly took the Fort Trumbull neighborhood for what became private-development, and now all that remains is an empty lot.
In 1998, the area surrounding the waterfront neighborhood saw an increased surge of economic development. This prompted city officials to decide the Fort Trumbull could be better used for other purposes.
According to the Institute for Justice, the plan was to take the land from the residents and give it to the New London Development Corporation (NLDC), a private body. Eminent domain allows the government to take land for the purposes of the public good so long as property owners are offered just compensation.
Residents, however, did not like the idea. In an effort to protect their homes, Susette Kelo and her neighbors took their city to court. After years of fighting, Kelo v. City of New London went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. To the dismay of the residents, however, the court ruled in 2005 in favor of New London.
“When I first started this battle, it was about me and this little pink house,” Kelo told The Daily Signal. “But it grew into something much bigger than that. It turned into a nationwide battle to save the Fort Trumbull neighborhood.”
The land is now empty, 10 years after the case, never used for any development plans. Ilya Somin, a professor at the George Mason University School of Law and adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, notes it is not clear cut whether the eminent domain law itself is bad– but it is clear it has been abused.
“There are certain circumstances where it is potentially justified,” Somin told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “That doesn’t mean the government should have a free hand to condemn property.”
“This was not a well-designed plan for the very beginning,” he noted. “The arrangements they had with the developers fell through.”
“In some states these abuses are rare and in others it’s common,” Somin continued. “Overall, this is quite a significant problem, especially for urban areas.”
Somin, who just published a book, ”The Grasping Hand,” about the case, notes the case did have an upside. The increased national attention and push for reform motivated many states to take action.
“In the aftermath of Kelo, 45 states have passed eminent domain reform laws,” Somin added. “About 20 are strong reforms.”