The Taking Of A Town: Supreme Court Ruling Kelo v. New London

Thursday, June 23, 2005

In what, years from now, may be seen as the landmark case of our generation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today 5-4 in favor of the city of New London CT. For those not familiar with this case, here is a brief overview: The city of New London approved a development plan for the Fort Trumbull area of the city. The plan would be broken down into 8 projects (or sections) which are:
1. Waterfront conference hotel (equipped with stores, restaurants, marinas and a riverwalk)
2. 80 new residences organized into an urban neighborhood equipped with a public walkway
3. 90,000 square feet of research and development office space
4A. 2.4 acre site to be used for parking or retail services, or to support the marina
4B. Renovated marina, and final stretch of riverwalk
5,6,7. Land for office and retail space, parking, and water-dependent commercial uses.

This city beautification/development project would bring in money and jobs to the area and may not be a bad idea except for the fact that the owners of 15 houses in the neighborhood resisted city plans. When the city tried to take the property with the power of eminent domain Susette Kelo filed a lawsuit on behalf of the other 8 petitioners. Here's a brief look at Mrs. Kelo: she has lived in the Fort Trumbull area since 1997. She has made extensive improvements to her house, which she is said to love for its water view. Also on the petition was Wilhelmina Dery who was born in 1918 in the same Fort Trumbull home she lives in now.
It is important to note that the Supreme Court made clear that "there is no allegation that any of these properties is blighted or otherwise in poor condidtion; rather, they were condemned only because they happen to be located in the develpment area." Government was able to take property from individuals through the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause. However, until today the "private property" taken would have to be for "public use" (highways, roads, etc.). With this ruling today, "public use" now means the economic profit of others.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated "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." She then asked "Who amoung us can say she already makes the most productive or attractive use of her property?" Justice O'Connor also stated in her dissent "The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more, the founders cannot have intended this perverse result." One of the basic principles of the "American Way of Life" is the thought that a person can own a home, settle down and have something to pass onto the next generation. Every homeowner in America should be scared. No longer is your home your castle. The invaders have stormed the gate.


Daedalus said...

Oddly enough, this is an issue that both the right and left agrees on.

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