The Supreme Court’s disastrous 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision sparked a property rights movement across the country about local governments around the nation who seize private property for the reason of “economic development.” As a result of the court decision, Susette Kelo’s land was given to private developers working on high-end projects in the surrounding area of the coroporate facility for the drug manufacturer Pfizer. Ms. Kelo’s home and other dwellings were bulldozed over in the end.
Pfizer recently announced, however, it plans to vacate its research and development facility in New London, Connecticut and move to nearby Groton. The Hartford Courant reports that the pending loss of Pfizer’s headquarters, “could also complicate New London’s effort to redevelop the Fort Trumbull area… ” The Courant references the Kelo decision and the so-called redevelopment Fort Trumbull was supposed to have as a result of the high court’s decision.:
“…an ambition that led to the city’s controversial seizure of private homes through eminent domain and to a subsequent bitter legal battle that ended with a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the city’s favor in 2005. Pfizer’s nearby headquarters was hailed as an attraction that would inspire redevelopment. But meaningful redevelopment at Fort Trumbull remains a dream.”
Pfizer, though, refuses to take the blame for the barren area of Fort Trumbull. A spokeswoman for Pfizer sent the Washington Times a statement on the eminent domain case and the company’s pulling out of New London.:
“Eminent domain played no part in the development by Pfizer of its facility in New London CT. In fact, our offices were built on an industrial “brown field.” Pfizer worked with the State on remediation and clean up of the polluted site-formerly an abandoned mill and a scrap yard.
Kelo v. New London concerned an appeal by homeowners of property, located in the nearby Fort Trumbull neighborhood. They objected to the use of eminent domain by the City as part of its redevelopment plan. Pfizer was not a party to that litigation, had no stake in the outcome of the case and has no requirements nor interest in the development of the land that is the subject of the case. Pfizer did not acquire any property there.
We continue to be dismayed to see false and misleading claims appear in the media that suggest Pfizer was involved in this matter.”
The Arlington, Virginia based civil liberties law firm Institute for Justice (IJ) who represented Ms. Kelo in 2005 sees the closing of Pfizer as proof of what they have been saying all along about government and corporate welfare. IJ staffer Christina Walsh wrote to the Washington Times:
“The closing of Pfizer in New London demonstrates the folly of government plans that involve massive corporate welfare and the use of eminent domain for private development. The majority in Kelo described the Fort Trumbull project as a ‘carefully considered’ plan, but it has been a complete disaster from start to finish. Local officials nationwide who are tempted to follow in New London’s footsteps should take a close look at Fort Trumbull today - barren to all but feral cats and weeds.”
Many see that the high court made a bad decision with the Kelo case, and the result in Connecticut is water under the bridge, unfortunately. What has resulted, though, is a greater awarenss among Americans regarding how precious individual property rights are. Fort Trumbull homes may not have been saved in 2005, but other localities in forty-three states around the country instituted eminent domain protections for property owners since then. When the American people want something, they can work pretty fast on their own. Government economic development planners should take heed.