A group of New London homeowners called for Gov. M. Jodi Rell Monday to step back into the fray of the eminent domain debate as another deadline approaches. Rell was able to stop the city of New London and the New London Development Corporation from serving eviction notices to residents last year. Rell thought she could stall the evictions long enough for the legislature to act on the issue either in the 2005 special session or the past three-month session that started Feb. 8 and ended May 4. But the legislature’s Democratic majority didn’t let her off the hook.
“I regret that the General Assembly has been largely silent on the overall issue of eminent domain, despite the fact that they called a special session last fall and were in regular session for three months earlier this year” Rell said in a prepared statement Monday. Michael Cristofaro, a Fort Trumbull resident said Monday that the mediator Rell sent last year did not look for solutions and instead, “kept trying to buy us out.” To add insult to injury the New London Development Corporation wants to charge Cristofaro’s family $97,000 for use and occupancy over the past year. Then there was a proposal to offer some of the residents life tenancy and wait for the residents, mostly in their 80s, to die, Cristofaro said. He said he hopes Rell will stand behind the residents and help put an end to the eight years of uncertainty. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the NLDC had the right to take the Fort Trumbull homes and give the property to a private developer in the name of economic development. The court’s decision sparked a national debate over property rights.“I believe that the development of the entire peninsula is critically important to the economic welfare of the city and the region. At the same time, I have remained sympathetic to the occupants,” Rell said Monday. “We must move forward with the Fort Trumbull project, and I have directed the Department of Economic and Community Development and mediator Bob Albright to redouble their efforts to bring about a resolution, which is long overdue.” Legislators passed legislation to create the office of the eminent domain ombudsman, but neighbors said the office means nothing. Susan Kniep, president of the Connecticut Taxpayers Association, said since the release of the Supreme Court’s decision there has been 342 proposals nationwide to change eminent domain laws, and one bank has publicly announce it will not finance projects where private property was taken for private development with public dollars. “This is not a bricks and mortar issues this is an issue that goes to the hearts and minds of all Connecticut residents,” Kniep said. She said it’s something voters should remember to ask candidates before they head to the polls this November.