Washington, D.C.-The homes and businesses of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood will remain standing, occupied and rented until a decision has been reached in a challenge to the eminent domain actions filed by the City of New London and the New London Development Corporation (NLDC), the Institute for Justice announced today.
“Before we filed for a restraining order, the NLDC had arrogantly refused to guarantee that the properties would not be demolished during the course of the litigation,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law center that represents seven property owners fighting to hold on to their homes and businesses. “Now, we have that guarantee. The property owners can rest easy knowing that they won’t lose their homes or incomes while we focus on the legal issues in the case.”
The Institute for Justice filed for a temporary restraining order on January 31, 2001, to ensure that buildings would not be demolished while the lawsuit against the City of New London and the NLDC over eminent domain progresses. Prior to resorting to the courts, the Institute sought assurance from the NLDC that the homes would be left untouched, but the corporation declined. February 5 was the first day the NLDC could have bulldozed properties it is taking through eminent domain to make way for development of a hotel, a health club, private office space, and other unspecified projects.
While attorneys appeared in court on February 5 attempting to obtain a restraining order, property owners and their supporters held a vigil around one of the vacant properties to ensure it was not demolished. IJ Vice President for Communications John Kramer camped out overnight in a vacant, unheated property from midnight February 5 until the court appearance to guarantee that the NLDC did not move in with bulldozers to raze the properties until the court hearing. The filing of the request for a restraining order and the February 5 hearing touched off two weeks of negotiations before Judge Robert Martin between the Institute for Justice, which represents the property owners, and the NLDC, culminating in the agreement late yesterday.
In addition to the guarantee that there will be no demolitions or evictions, the owners of rental property will also be able to rent out the properties during the course of the litigation.
“Before the agreement, the NLDC had claimed full ownership of the buildings, they moved tenants out, and argued that any rents remaining must be paid to the NLDC,” Bullock said. “That has been stopped. Now, the true owners of the buildings will be able to offer their apartments and homes for rent.”
The Derys are one of the property owners challenging the eminent domain actions. The Derys own four properties in Fort Trumbull, including a home that has been in their family since 1901. Matt Dery and his family live in one house, his father and mother in the house next door, and the family owns two adjacent rental properties.
“Just a few weeks ago, my father received a letter telling him that all rents coming in from our two rental properties must be paid to the NLDC and that my mother and father had to pay the NLDC an ‘occupancy fee’ until the end of the case,” said Matt Dery. “My parents use the rental income to supplement their Social Security. It was unbelievable that the NLDC was demanding not only the rents but that a fee be paid to them, even though my parents have lived in the same house mortgage-free their entire married life. We are very pleased not only that we will be able to stay in our properties while the case is heard but that our family will also be able to receive some return on our investments.”
The agreement also set a schedule for resolving the case. Discovery will take place throughout the remainder of February, March and April, and the trial in the case is currently scheduled for May 21.
“We greatly appreciate Judge Martin’s efforts to facilitate this agreement, and we look forward to exposing the illegal and unconstitutional actions taken by the City and the NLDC in court,” Bullock concluded.