The real story of the Kelo property grabs

Remember the SCOTUS Kelo decision on the use of eminent domain by municipalities to benefit private contracters? Well here is the rest of the story.

From an article in MichNews.com by Shu Bartholemew :

After plans to redevelop the Fort Trumbull area were approved by the City of New London in 1999, the New London Development Corporation (NLDC), a quasi-public entity empowered by the city to use the sovereign power of eminent domain, started acquiring private property, including a neighborhood of approximately 80 older homes.

In a recent interview on my radio show with two of the remaining homeowners, Susette Kelo and Michael Cristofaro, I got a tiny glimpse of what the last 5 years have been like. Here is what they told me about their nightmare.

In the beginning representatives from the NLDC showed up on their doorsteps with contracts in hand, ready to be signed. The homeowners were told to accept the money they were offered as their homes had been condemned and they would end up with nothing. Most of the homeowners, many of them in their 80’s and 90’s, fearful of being left not only homeless but penniless as well, signed the contracts and vacated their homes. They moved out of their neighborhood, and home, for the first time ever.

The homeowners who did not surrender their homes immediately were threatened, intimidated and harassed. Agents representing the City of New London called on the phone and banged on their doors at all hours of the day and night, insisting that they sign the contracts. Bulldozers mowed down the homes as soon as the NLDC took possession of them, burying personal objects and mementoes in the rubble they created. They left no physical traces of the generations of families that once inhabited the area. The same bulldozers were then parked in front of the remaining homes, as a menacing reminder of the threat that still hung over them, promising them that their turn would come. When that tactic failed to produce the desired results, roads were blocked, denying the residents access to their homes.

It is hard to imagine that the Founders of this country envisioned the citizens they worked hard to protect would end up being treated by public servants in this manner. It is equally hard to believe that, in the unfortunate event that private property would have to be used for a “public use”, that the owners would not be made as whole as possible.

But the provision for “just compensation” has, if possible, been even more abused than the condemnation itself.

One condemned property was valued at $60,000 (Cristofaro’s) by the assessors hired by the city. This is the same city, which, in 2000, assessed the property at $215,000 for tax purposes. The rationale being that as the property is under threat of condemnation, it has no value. ” It is important to note that Christofaro actually offered to give the city his house n return for one of the yet to be built condos. However, city officials told him that would be impossible because they didn’t yet know how much the new condos would be worth. The elderly whose family homes were taken from them in the name of “progress” were left not only homeless, but penniless, as well. There is nothing “just” about a system that sanctions stealing private property.

And, to add insult to injury, the city now is demanding rent of $600 a month, going back 5 years. So much for the mandate for “just compensation”.

But I saved the best for last. In the case of New London and their plans for rebuilding the city, there are no plans for the land 11 houses sit on. The NLDC does not need the 11 remaining houses in Fort Trumbull to proceed with the approved plans to redevelop the area. They fought the homeowners, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, not because the houses were in their way but because, as has been reported in the past, the new residents of the now more upscale neighborhood, “do not want to look at these properties.

O’Connor dissent
Thomas Dissent

This was a SCOTUS decision, not a 9th circuit court decision. Amoral and frightening, isn’t it? Well, now you know the rest of the story.

Author: Brian Bonner

USAF Veteran, Disabled NYC Paramedic, Oathkeeper, U.S. History and Constitutional Scholar, Internet Talk Show Host - Independent thinking. Constitutional Conservative, living off-grid in the Mountains of Montana - The Constitution is The Solution!

13 thoughts on “The real story of the Kelo property grabs”

  1. Now that Kelo allows condemnation of private property without the necessity of showing a public need, how does this change the rulings in inverse condemnation? In the past a property owner could sue for compensation for the lost value of their property caused by actions by a public agency. If a sewer plant connection reduced the accessibility of a property to public roads, the owner could sue the public agency in an inverse condemnation action for the lost value.

    Now, if a property owners’ property value is reduced by construction of a new development, can the owner sue the public agency issuing the permits allowing the new development?

    For example, if a new development is allowed to construct homes using septic tanks and leach fields on each property, and the neighboring property owners can show a degradation of their well water, will the permitting authority be liable for the difference in land value caused by the lack of water?

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  2. LTC,
    Ah, I agree with you completely now. Many states already are enacting laws to protect people against this unconstitutional ruling by SCOTUS, and some already had them prior to their decision. Are you saying wee should have new Federal Legislation?

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  3. As I said, an interesting intellectual discussion … but the only thing that will change the SCOTUS ruling is a different court composition and another case to rule on. In the meantime, the “correction” has to come from the legislature.

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  4. It is not MOOT becausee SCOTUS is an important check and balance in our system. Their job is to protect our rights and not to expand federal powers. this is extremely dangerous times we live in right now. I only hope that the Two people he gets to put on the Court brings it back in line.

    Anyone placed on SCOTUS who says that the Constitution is a living breathing document, or behaves like it is should be removed IMO.

    Oh, and quotes foreign law in their decisions!

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  5. Discussing the rightness or wrongness of the SCUSA decision is interesting from an intellectual standpoint but otherwise fruitless. My point was and remains that the SCUSA left the door open to the Legislative Branch to define (hopefully limit) “Public Use”. Individual state legislatures have taken this on. Our national legislature, the illustrious US Congress, hasn’t … yet. Since this issue has enormous consequences, links to the US Constitution, and has long term potential for legal challenge, it is my view that Congress not only has the right but also the obligation to address it.

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  6. I think we have to keep formost in our minds how important the right of private property ownership is, and how important it was to the Founding Fathers. SCOTUS did NOT apply the law as outlined in the Constitution. The wording may not be clear to some lay people, but any good Constituional Judge understands the legal ease of the times. They were very careful in writing the Bill of Rights. After that is looked at the next step is to read what the framers of the Constitution has to say on the subject. They did NOT want the government to take peoples property unless it was absolutely necessary, and then only with just compensation. Neither of this happend in this case. You should read the desenting opinion in the Kelo v. New London case.

    O’Connor dissent
    Thomas Dissent

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  7. Yep, sometimes it can sting when you move to another state and they nail you for more taxes on a vehicle you bought elsewhere. Lots of times they’ll get you for the difference in sales tax if theirs is higher. Happened to me once.

    Kelo had an effect in more places than Connecticut though. A case like this has been brewing for a long time.

    Detroit, for example, has been doing the same thing for decades. They’ve condemned entire neighborhoods to turn the land over to factories.

    I can’t argue that it is not a benefit to the community to have jobs and a tax base come to what may or may not have been a blighted neighborhood but it doesn’t really pass the standard of ‘public use’. At least it doesn’t to me and a lot of other people.

    It’ll be a good thing to have legislatures put a firm definition on the concept and delineate what can and can’t be done. Let’s hope they get it right.

    A lot of people saw themselves in the same situation as Kelo and didn’t like it.

    I really do hope that guy manages to throw Souter out of his home to build a hotel on the property. I love it when people choke on their own poison. Another personal weakness, but I’ll live with it.

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  8. “Discussion” works for me! :smile_wp:

    In the overall scheme of things, I would just as soon leave more at state level too … though that has it’s downside sometimes when one moves from state to state … vehicle titles, for example.

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  9. I don’t consider it an argument. I’m thinking of it more as a discussion. Much friendlier that way. I think we’re both on the same side of this anyway.

    I noted in my first comment that the decision has led to some/many/lots of state legislatures taking command of the situation and tightening up on the definition of what eminent domain can be used for. That’s good enough for me. At least until Congress weighs in. They might just screw it up. Won’t be the first time.

    I have no problem with things like this being resolved at the state level. Lots of times it’s the preferable solution.

    People can then vote with their feet and live where the laws suit them more.

    There seems to be a movement to throw a lot of things back to the states. Abortion may possibly become one of those things.

    After all, marriage and divorce seems to do fine being regulated at the state level. One can go where the laws suit them to do either.

    New London and Connecticut can hasten the flight of their residents to other states by making property ownership more of a gamble. Works for me.

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  10. StinKerr … not arguing the concept … just who ought to be making the implementing rules. I don’t want the courts, particularly the SCOTUS, writing definitions … that’s what got us in the trouble we are in in the first place. I WOULD like the people I voted for to do THEIR jobs … and Congress has abstained on a bunch of issues that matter to me … this being one of them, illegals being another. What astounds me more than anything is that the people of New London allowed this to happen … I am reminded of the old saw … “First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.” There are variations on this quote … but the point is the same …

    I like this blog simply because it gives me a chance to speak out and the devil take the hindmost … and most times that I speak out, I write my Congresscritters.

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  11. From the 5th amendment:

    …nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    While I believe that running a highway through someone’s neighborhood constitutes ‘public use’, I don’t believe that seizing property to turn it over to a private entity is ‘public use’.

    A case can be made that it’s for ‘public good‘ such as increasing the tax base, which IIRC was the case that was made, but that’s not what the Constitution says.

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  12. What baffles me in all this is not the SCOTUS … the SCOTUS in my view went by the letter of the Constitution. WHERE is the US Congress? It seems to me this is an area where Congress could craft some decent bi-partisan legislation … under the umbrella of the commerce clause that they have stretched so liberally in the past. WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

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  13. If nothing else, the decision served as a wake up call. State legislatures all over the country have or are in the process of passing laws to severely curtail this land grabbing for private entities.

    I’m wondering how that guy is doing with his attempt to have justice Souter’s home condemned to make way for a hotel.

    Like most people, I have no problem with eminent domain for public use: Highways, airports, etc. But to take land to give to a private entity is just wrong.

    The logic behind lowering the assessment and then charging rent for the time they were in litigation demonstrates the depths to which these autocrats will plunge. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

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