Eminent domain, the wrong fight: Part 3

March 6, 2005 | Eminent domain, Kelo vs. New London, Supreme Court, Zoning


[Go back to Part 1]

[Go back to Part 2]

G. Takings in New London: Susette Kelo

Comes now petitioner Susette Kelo, whom we mentioned in an earlier post. Ms. Kelo and several of her neighbors own old houses in Fort Trumbull, a large now-closed submarine base in the City of New London,

New London Fort Trumbull

On the River Thames, rhymes with ‘dames’

part of which has been converted into a state park:

Fort Trumbull State Park

Once the home of a major whaling industry, New London has experienced decades of urban decline, although not necessarily blight (which is a magic word in eminent domain) decided to jump-start its redevelopment. First they attracted Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company, to relocate its Global Research & Development headquarters to New London. Now the City wants to redevelop Fort Trumbull, adjacent to the Pfizer site, into a series of compatible uses:

New London Fort Trumbull development


The fickle finger of fate points to you


The first phase, completed in mid-2001, featured $12 million of infrastructure work including two major roundabouts, one of which forms the entryway to the Pfizer Global Research & Development Facility. In addition to street improvements, infrastructure reconstruction in the Fort Trumbull area includes new water, sewer and underground utility lines; new sidewalks and streetlights; and an extensive landscaping program with new tree plantings to screen out the upgraded regional wastewater treatment facility. The City of New London and the State of Connecticut have made significant improvements to the wastewater treatment facility itself, significantly reducing odors and improving the appearance of the plant through site clean-up, fencing and new landscaping.

The Municipal Development Plan also provides for the development of 80 units of housing, retail and commercial space. Much of this private development, including the hotel and conference center, is included in a development agreement with Corcoran Jennison Companies, an experienced and well-regarded Boston-based developer with a strong track record. NLDC is currently managing construction of the second phase of MDP infrastructure, including all new streets and utilities serving the 25-acre Corcoran Jennison private development site. Additional phases of development activity will be undertaken over the next three years.

One highlight of the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Project is the opening of the new 16-acre Fort Trumbull State Park, which included the restoration of a historic “third system” fort structure constructed in 1852. Used as a fort as early as the American Revolution, the site served as the marshalling area for Connecticut enlisted men during the Civil War and the home of the Coast Guard Academy in the early 20th century. In more recent times, the site was home to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), which developed some of the world’s most sophisticated electronic and sonar technologies used in submarine systems and for intelligence gathering during the cold war.

Adjacent to the Fort Trumbull State Park is the proposed site for the new 50,000 sq. ft., $40 million National U.S. Coast Guard Museum. The museum will permanently house an extensive collection of maritime art and Coast Guard artifacts, feature interactive displays, and celebrate the history of the Coast Guard dating back to the earliest days of the republic.

Additionally, a Riverwalk is being constructed along the entire length of the area’s waterfront connecting to a walkway system that continues through the downtown and up to the northern edge of the city. The landscaped walkway will be able to accommodate both pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

The total projected State of Connecticut investment in the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Project is $78 million, the City of New London’s investment is an additional $4 million, and federal EDA funding is $2 million. State and local funds for the wastewater treatment plant project completed in early 2001 totaled $11.2 million. Private investment within the MDP is expected to be an additional $180 million.

Let’s examine the scene:

New London Kelo house 8 East Street

If you lived here, you’re being evicted now

Kelo house

One of these buildings is doomed … which one?

Fort Trumbull lies on a spit of land at the mouth of the Thames River and Long Island Sound. The total property comprises 90 acres, of which at the moment only 2.4 (Parcel 4A), is occupied, by Ms. Kelo and her neighbors. Parcel 4A is entirely landlocked relative to the rest of Fort Trumbull.

Kelo map page 81 0502

Pfizer site just to the south (the antiseptic white space).

The City of New London argues (Adobe, brief page 37, file page 47) that this parcel is integral to the entire redevelopment:

It is important to consider how Parcel 4A fits into the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan (MDP). Parcel 4A is uniquely situated between Fort Trumbull State Park to the east, Fort Trumbull Marina to the South, the regional sewage treatment facility to the west, and Parcel 2 to the north. Fort Trumbull State Park and Parcel 2 were formerly part of the NUWC (Naval Undersea Warfare Center). The sole means of access to both the state park and the marina is over the roads in Parcel 4A. Parcel 4A is largely segregated from the rest of the MDP area by the sewage treatment plant.

Parcels 4A and 4B will provide land and water renovation of the small marina and development of a unique state-of-the-art marina training center. Existing buildings will be used for support and training facilities. The existing marina will be reconfigured and rebuilt to provide between 40 and 50 permanent slips.

Ms. Kelo, understandably, thinks that if the City of New London would like development in the Fort Trumbull complex, they can develop it around her and her neighbors.

[Continue to Part 4]