Subject: Fort Trumbull falls to enemy forces
Final two holdouts in eminent domain case reach agreement
By SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press Writer
June 30, 2006, 4:46 PM EDT
HARTFORD, Conn. -- The last two holdouts in New London's Fort
Trumbull neighborhood agreed Friday to give up their land to make way
for private development, ending an eight-year battle that went all
the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Suzette Kelo, the lead plaintiff
in the case, agreed to have her pink cottage moved elsewhere in New
"Even though she lost her land, the little pink home that launched a
national revolution is safe, and it's going to stand as a testament
to her heroic struggle and the struggle against eminent domain abuse
throughout the country," said Scott Bullock, a spokesman for the
Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners.
Pasquale Cristofaro, the other holdout, has agreed to give up his
home but is entitled to purchase a new one in the neighborhood at a
fixed price if new homes are built. He also has the option to build
on the Fort Trumbull peninsula, as long as whatever he builds
complies with a plan of development.
"I'm relieved, but it's a sad day because the city doesn't want us
there," said Michael Cristofaro, Pasquale's son. "I'm going to have
to see that house be torn down and you can bet I'll be there when
they tear that house down. I'm not going to let them get away with
thinking that day is just going to come and go."
The amount of money involved in the settlements was not released.
Cristofaro said his family won some concessions in the final
negotiations that mean a lot to them personally. The city must erect
a plaque on the planned Fort Trumbull riverwalk honoring Cristofaro's
mother, Margherita, who died in 2003. The city and its development
arm must also transplant rhododendron bushes and arborvitae from
Cristofaro's property. He does not expect the house to be torn down
until after October, when the plants can be moved safely.
Cristofaro credited Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a representative from the
state Department of Economic and Community Development with getting
involved in the final negotiations, treating the homeowners with
compassion and understanding that small concessions were important.
"That's what the city didn't understand," he said. "People have
personal attachments to their property and money is not always what
people want. These were concessions that the city didn't even bother
to try to make. They just wanted you out."
The Cristofaros and Kelo had faced the possibility of forced eviction
from their homes to make way for a riverfront project slated to
include condominiums, a hotel and office space.
But last week, Rell announced a tentative agreement between the
city's development arm, the New London Development Corp., and the
Rell, in a written statement, said Friday that she was pleased the
final agreements have been signed. She thanked Kelo and the
Cristofaro for their willingness to "negotiate and responsibly settle
this very difficult and painful issue."
"Now these families can have some closure and the Fort Trumbull
economic development project will go forward without delay, infusing
new jobs and vitality into the region," she said.
The five other property owners in the case had already settled with
the city and handed over their properties. The New London Development
Corp. first condemned the properties in 2000, and the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled 5-4 on June 23, 2005, that New London had the right to
The court also said states were free to change their eminent domain
laws. Legislatures in 20 states have since passed some form of
legislation limiting eminent domain. The Democrat-controlled
Connecticut General Assembly was not one of them, despite pleas from
Republicans to prevent eminent domain seizures for projects such as
shopping malls or condominiums that benefit private developers.
Rell said Friday that Connecticut should work to limit eminent domain
when the next legislative session opens in January.
Cristofaro said he is not giving up on the issue.
"It's a happy and sad day. I'm now able to get my life back, but the
thing is, I will never stop fighting for people's property rights
across this nation," he said. "There's a lot of good things coming
out because of our fight here in New London. People are uprising
across the nation."
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New property rights ombudsman, other laws taking effect
By SUSAN HAIGH
Associated Press Writer
June 30, 2006, 7:58 PM EDT
HARTFORD, Conn. -- The day after the last two holdouts in New London's eminent domain case settled their challenges, a new state law creating a property rights ombudsman takes effect on Saturday.
It's one of several new laws that kick in on July 1.
The new ombudsman law does not reform the eminent domain property-taking process, which many Republicans in the Democratic-controlled legislature hoped for this year. Rather, it compromises by setting up an office to help property owners navigate eminent domain proceedings, mediate disputes and recommend changes in Connecticut's eminent domain laws.
"I think if the ombudsman was in place when this process started eight years ago, we would have avoided all of this because the city's early bullying would have been brought to a halt," said House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, an advocate for eminent domain reform.
Ward said he's optimistic that Gov. M. Jodi Rell's appointee for the ombudsman job will be in place by January. Ward said he'd like the person to be an attorney who is committed to property rights and has experience with eminent domain issues.
On Friday, the two remaining homeowners in New London's Fort Trumbull neighborhood agreed to end an eight-year battle to save their property from being razed for private development _ a fight that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the case, agreed to have her pink cottage moved elsewhere in New London.
Pasquale Cristofaro, the other holdout, agreed to give up his home but is entitled to purchase a new one in the neighborhood at a fixed price if new homes are built. Rell, who helped to broker the settlement, said she's committed to changing the state's eminent domain laws next year if she wins the November gubernatorial election.
"We must now focus our efforts on joining with the other 25 states in the nation that have passed eminent domain reform legislation to protect our citizens from expanded, unnecessary property seizure," said Rell, a Republican. Some Democrats have hesitated to change state laws on eminent domain, arguing that the issue is complicated and that they don't want to hurt municipal redevelopment efforts.
Ward said he believes Friday's settlements in New London might help garner more support for eminent domain reform next year, when the legislature convenes in January. "In some ways, for some legislators, it will be easier for them to move forward," he said. "It won't be viewed as them picking on New London."
Among the other laws that take effect Saturday: a plan to establish a new corporation tax credit for qualified Connecticut film and digital media production, pre-production and post-production expenses over $50,000. It is part of an effort to encourage growth of the film industry in the state.
Although school is out for the summer, a new law banning Connecticut's public schools from selling soda and other sugary drinks takes effect.
Saturday also marks the start of a law that allows state taxpayers to deduct contributions to the Connecticut Higher Education Trust, the state-sponsored college savings plan. It allows a $10,000 annual deduction for joint filers, and $5,000 for single filers for the current tax year and beyond.
A new law against trafficking humans also takes effect Saturday, applying to people who coerce others into prostitution or work. They could face up to 20 years in prison, a fine up to $15,000 or both.
Also, the second phase of a statewide transportation bonding initiative kicks off on Saturday. The $2.3 billion package includes numerous projects, such as restoring commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, Mass.; and improving rail stations and parking areas along the Metro-North and Shore Line East commuter lines.