The city council of New London, CT voted 5-2 last night to begin evictions of the two remaining Fort Trumbull homeowners whose rights are standing in the way of a lucrative development deal. The nay votes came from council members Bill Cornish and Charles Frink, both members of the One New London party that was formed last year in reaction to the Fort Trumbull takings.
Of the original seven plaintiffs in the case Kelo v. New London, only three were left as of yesterday—and one of those, Bill van Winkle, owner of three multi-unit properties, reached a separate settlement with the city just before the council meeting. Michael Cristofaro says he will continue to fight, while Susette Kelo has made no comment. Cristofaro gives Reason some of the numbers in his own case:
"The decision yesterday also included use and occupancy fees going back to November 2000, which total about $97,000," he says. "The figure for back taxes is $18,000 or $19,000. And they're offering me $150,000 for the house. So after taxes I'd probably walk away with about $10,000 or $12,000 for my home."
Plaintiffs' attorney Scott Bullock tells Reason the council ignored a compromise proposal by Governor Jodi M. Rell (in which the homeowners would have been given back their deeds and the city would retain right of first refusal if the homes were ever sold). "This compromise was accepted by all the homeowners, and endorsed by the vast majority of the public," says Bullock, "and the city council rejected it just as an exercise in raw power." Even the usually sunny Bullock concedes that the prospects are grim for the two holdouts, though there is still a possibility of state intervention. (The state of Connecticut has funded most of the Fort Trumbull redevelopment so far.)
"I don't feel like an American citizen today," says Cristofaro. "At last night's meeting the council admitted that they do not need the parcel. They're on an ego trip and they want the property brownfielded before they go to a developer. So far the only thing they've even started to work on is this Coast Guard Museum that the state put $15 million into. I'm sure I could convert my house into the Eminent Domain Museum and I'd get more visitors."