Washington, D.C.-After four hours of courthouse conferences to decide the immediate fate of their properties, property owners in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Connecticut, rested a little easier Monday night knowing that their homes and rental units would not be demolished–for now. Through meetings with New London Superior Court Judge Robert Martin, the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) agreed for the remainder of this week not to demolish four homes. Negotiations are scheduled to continue on Friday, February 9.
“There is absolutely no justification for the NLDC to immediately take and destroy these properties,” said Scott Bullock, Institute for Justice senior attorney, who leads the property owners’ legal fight. “Connecticut state law presumes that our clients–the property owners–have the right to keep their properties until the ultimate legal conclusion of this case. We are in court to make sure they have more to come home to than rubble.”
Bullock added, “Keep in mind, too, that there are no immediate construction plans for these properties. The NLDC cannot be allowed to bulldoze now and worry about our clients’ constitutional rights later.”
The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit property rights defender representing eight families in New London, filed for a temporary restraining order last Friday to ensure that buildings would not be demolished while their lawsuit against the City of New London, State of Connecticut and NLDC over eminent domain progresses. Prior to resorting to the courts, the Institute sought some assurance from the NLDC that the homes would be left untouched, but the corporation declined. Monday was the first day the NLDC could have bulldozed properties it is taking through eminent domain for development of a hotel, health club, private office space, and other unspecified projects.
The Institute is the nation’s leading legal advocate against eminent domain abuse. The Institute litigates eminent domain cases throughout the country and was the organization that won a case on behalf of a widow whose house was sought by Donald Trump and a New Jersey government agency. In 2000, the Institute also spearheaded a campaign against eminent domain abuse in downtown Pittsburgh, where the city mayor proposed taking more than 60 buildings and 120 privately owned businesses to give the property to a developer to build an urban shopping mall. In November 2000, the mayor abandoned his plans and pledged not to use eminent domain in future efforts to develop the area. In October 2000, the Institute filed a lawsuit in federal district court in New York challenging New York’s unconstitutional eminent domain procedures.