- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — The mayor of New London, where a fight over government seizure of property led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, is proposing a compromise for a group of homeowners.

Under a plan presented to the City Council on Monday night, four persons whose homes were seized for a private development would be allowed to stay. The city would own their properties, and the residents would have to pay the city to live there.

Two other homeowners were excluded from Mayor Beth Sabilia’s plan. One doesn’t live in the home and the other moved in after the court battle began.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that the quasi-public New London Development Corp. could take homes in the Fort Trumbull area for private economic development. The 94-acre project, proposed in 1998, calls for a hotel, office space and upscale housing.

The court also said states are free to ban property seizure under eminent domain for such projects, prompting many states to consider such bans.

One of the property owners who sued over the Fort Trumbull seizures, Susette Kelo, said the mayor’s proposal shows that the houses and the private development can coexist. But she and another plaintiff, Michael Cristofaro, said they aren’t interested in paying rent for homes they owned.

“The ongoing battle of the last eight years has not been to allow us to live in our homes and pay rent to the city of New London until we die,” Mrs. Kelo said.

The City Council voted Monday to collect rent from the homeowners while city Law Director Thomas Londregan studies the mayor’s proposal.

Michael Joplin, president of the New London Development Corp., said the agency would defer to the council’s decision.

The government offered what it said was fair value for the Fort Trumbull homes. Most residents took the money and left, but those remaining either say the money isn’t enough or their homes aren’t for sale at all. Money for the houses still standing has been set aside for the homeowners.

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