The day before Thanksgiving 2000, Kelo said, a notice was posted on her East Street home, informing her and her husband that they had four months to move out or police would remove them and their belongings.
"I really didn't want to sell my property so I wasn't interested at all in the offer," she said. "And they simply told me if you're not going to sell, we're going to take your property by eminent domain."
Most of Kelo's neighbors have moved on, leaving large parts of Fort Trumball bulldozed amid rubble. About 80 homes and businesses are gone, leaving only seven property owners and 15 parcels remaining.
The city government said it offered Kelo and her neighbors a fair price for their properties.
The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with New London, ruling that promoting economic development outweighed private property rights. Homeowners argued that since their neighborhood is neither a slum nor crime-ridden, it does not meet legal standards for application of eminent domain.
The case is Kelo v. City of New London (04-0108).
My understanding is that eminent domain has traditionaly been reserved for cases in which blighted or distressed private property was needed for the greater public good, such as building a highway. Highways are expensive, and rerouting one around a single or even a few private homes just doesn't make economic sense, especially when the homes (or businesses) in question are of sub-standard quality. However, in recent years, some communities around the country have taken to using eminent domain as a way to transfer ownership from one private entity to another for "economic development." Such as from an average homeowner to a well-to-do campaign donor. Of course, that's not how they'll put it. The munipalities will say your property can be of greater economic use as a strip mall or pharmaceutical plant. To my mind, this just isn't right. I'm no legal expert, but economic development just shouldn't trump an individual's rights or their private property. I'll be watching this one--a decision is expected sometime in June. Let me hear what you think.