NLDC getting a new identity

New London - Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio on Tuesday apologized to property owners whose homes were seized by eminent domain in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. At the same time, Finizio announced a restructuring of the New London Development Corp.

The changes to the NLDC, which bought and took the properties to pave the way for private development in the Fort Trumbull area, include a name change and new leadership.

"I issued a formal apology to all those adversely affected by eminent domain to acknowledge, in my opinion, that mistakes were made,'' Finizio said. "I think our development strategy was flawed. We are moving forward with new strategy that will embrace a new vision."

Future development will be undertaken in partnership with neighborhoods, Finizio said.

In a redevelopment project at Fort Trumbull that began more than 12 years ago and was headed by the NLDC, seven property owners who fought the eminent domain filings saw the Supreme Court uphold the city's right to seize their homes for economic development.

Richard Beyer, a plaintiff in the nationally recognized Kelo v. New London eminent domain case, said he's not sure what good an apology does today.

"It's been so long,'' he said. "If he needs to apologize to anybody at this time, it's the families of the elders that lived there."

Finizio also announced that the NLDC will now be know as the Renaissance City Development Association.

NLDC President Michael Joplin will step down at the end of 2012, when Riverbank Construction is expected to break ground on The Village on the Thames project in Fort Trumbull. New London native Linda Mariani, who is a member of the NLDC executive committee, has agreed to run for president of the new RCDA.

All changes are expected to be approved by the membership at its April 26 annual meeting.

In the mayor's announcement, Mariani was quoted as saying, "As a native and current resident of New London, it is a great honor to serve the city in this capacity." She could not be reached for further comment.

Joplin, who took over the NLDC in 2002, was quoted in Finizio's statement as saying, "It has been a great honor to serve the NLDC but it is time to move on and I am happy to be stepping down as the River Bank project breaks ground."

The restructuring and change in leadership will occur with updates, revisions and expansions to the group's strategic plan and mission statement, Finizio said.

The revisions will incorporate the recently completed Yale Urban Design Workshop Study, the mayor said.

The transition also will address the title of properties in the 90-acre Fort Trumbull Municipal Development area, Finizio said. Both the RCDA and the city will ratify and confirm that the power of eminent domain rests solely with the City of New London.

Riverbank, a part of the Stillman development group, plans to build about 100 units of housing on about seven acres the city acquired from the federal government in 2000.

At the time, the NLDC, acting as an agent of the city, began buying up surrounding land and taking other parcels by eminent domain.

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