Mayor: Former Kelo property should be preserved as public park

The home of Suzette Kelo, at 8 East St. in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, became an icon of the city’s eminent domain case, which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. (Day file photo)
The home of Suzette Kelo, at 8 East St. in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, became an icon of the city’s eminent domain case, which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. (Day file photo)

New London — The vacant parcel of land at the corner of Trumbull and East streets where Suzette Kelo’s little pink house once stood could be set aside as a permanent public park recognizing the residents whose homes in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood were taken by the city’s use of eminent domain powers more than a decade ago.

In his State of the City address Tuesday evening, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced that he and the Renaissance City Development Association have reached an agreement that would remove Kelo’s former property from consideration for any future development.

“It is my personal hope that this park will serve as a memorial to all those adversely effected by the city’s use of eminent domain,” Finizio said. “I believe that this gesture is significant, although I acknowledge that some will say it is inadequate, as I am sure others will say it is unnecessary altogether.”

The memorandum of agreement reached by Finizio and RCDA President Linda Mariani calls for the city and RCDA to each pay half the cost to have the land surveyed to show it as separate from the larger tract of land it is a part of and to reflect the future completion of previously approved street realignment plans.

The city alone would bear all costs and responsibilities associated with developing, and constructing the memorial whether it “constitutes a monument, a small park or other similar memorial development,” according to the agreement.

Finizio has long disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling 10 years ago in Kelo v. City of New London that the city had the right to use eminent domain powers to take property for the city’s economic development purposes. During his 2011 mayoral campaign, Finizio ran on a promise to abolish RCDA’s predecessor, the New London Development Corp., and return control over development at Fort Trumbull to the city’s elected officials.

In his speech Tuesday evening, Finizio acknowledged that his request last year that the City Council grant him authorization to, on behalf of the city, take title to parcels of land on the Fort Trumbull peninsula from the RCDA was no longer a viable option.

In November, the Planning and Zoning Commission gave a negative report on the potential transfer, which meant the approval of any transfer would require five affirmative votes on the City Council, rather than only four.

“A super majority City Council vote is needed to accomplish the title transfer that would effectively dismantle the NLDC framework designed over 15 years ago, and it is simply not there,” Finizio said. “The effort to abolish the NLDC has come a day late and fallen a vote short. So now we must move on. Lost homes can never be replaced, the city will never again have this opportunity to take control of its own future, but all hope is not lost.”

Finizio on Tuesday pledged to work with the City Council and RCDA to see development at Fort Trumbull move forward.

Last week, the RCDA executive committee voted unanimously to send the City Council’s Economic Development Committee a Pennsylvania company’s plan for a 104-unit, $18.4 million residential development in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood.

The proposal, submitted earlier this month by A.R. Building Co., calls for an 80-unit “urban living” apartment building, two 12-unit townhouse buildings with integrated parking garages, a clubhouse with common areas and a fitness room, and an outdoor pool.

c.young@theday.com

Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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