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August 16, 2005
Dafydd: Bride of Imminent Domain

Sometimes, you almost have to laugh. But it's a nervous sort of laugh, like when your next-door neighbor launches into a tirade about the interstellar aliens who have taken over all the PTAs in the county.

It seems... well, I'll let Jonathan O'Connell of the Fairfield County Weekly have the floor:

The U.S. Supreme Court recently found that the [City of New London's] original seizure of private property was constitutional under the principal of eminent domain, and now New London is claiming that the affected homeowners were living on city land for the duration of the lawsuit and owe back rent. It's a new definition of chutzpah: Confiscate land and charge back rent for the years the owners fought confiscation.

Not only that, but according to O'Connell, the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) is offering compensation for homeowners at the real-estate appraisals of the year 2000! Since there has been a considerable rise in the value of real estate in the last five years, this means that the residents will not only lose their homes, not only be charged rent for the time they were fighting this bizarre interpretation of the Takings clause (now embraced by a slim majority of the Court), but they will probably be paid less in compensation than they are assessed in rent... and far too little to buy a new house to replace the one seized.

Oh, did I remember to mention that the article claims that the NLDC also insists that all rent collected from tennants of the people who thought they were the owners of their own property actually belongs to the City of New London, and must also be forked over, forthwith? This, too, could amount to tens of thousands of dollars that the hapless home(less)owners now owe the city... for having had the temerity to object to being treated like Mediaeval serfs, ousted at will by the local lord.

These erstwhile owners are in the process of having their lives utterly destroyed by the city in which most were born.

And thank God for Anthony Kennedy! If it weren't for him, these poor saps might have had to shuffle on through life laden down with all these, you know, dwelling places and such.

I'm not exaggerating about the devastation, by the way. One defendant, Matt Dery, owes the NLDC, according to its own estimate, $6100 per month, or $73,200 per year that he dared to try to hang onto the house he lived in and the house his mother was born in and lived in all of her life. It comes to over $300,000. He lost his home, his mother's home and two other buildings; and he may well end up owing the city a fortune, rather than the other way around.

I actually hope it will turn out this is all a mistake (perhaps a nightmare), that O'Connell just misunderstood. I have seen this in several blogs; but so far, it has not been picked up by any MSM outlet (the source I use appears to be an activist webzine that localizes for different areas). I'm not sure if that means it isn't true... or if it's just one of those stories that breaks first somewhere other than the New York Times or the Washington Post.

If it turns out not to be true, I will be happier to correct a post than I ever have been before (which would actually be easy, since I normally hate having to correct a mistake!) Barring that, I hope the NLDC comes to its senses and realizes that a city (or even it's quasi-public strongarm corporation) should not be in the business of bulldozing its citizens for a purpose so ignoble: simple unbridled greed.

But until one of these two saving graces eventuates, I would have to agree with O'Connell's conclusion:

Susette Kelo, who owns a single-family house with her husband, learned she would owe in the ballpark of 57 grand. "I'd leave here broke," says Kelo. "I wouldn't have a home or any money to get one. I could probably get a large-size refrigerator box and live under the bridge."

States cannot outlaw this barbaric and despicable abuse of power soon enough. Faster, please.

UPDATE 16:35 17 August 2005: USA Today now carries an editorial supporting the O'Connell story; but it clearly uses O'Connell as its main source, and I don't see any corroborative reporting other than that. (The quotation from Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell does not specifically refer to the rent issue but only the eviction itself.) So I still want to see independent corroboration. Anybody out there find any independent reporting on this issue in the MSM? (Hat Tip: Patterico's Pontifications, which mentioned the USA Today editorial in an update to a post from yesterday; also, SpaceNeedleBoy posted a comment here noting the editorial around the same time I posted this update.)

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Posted by Dafydd at August 16, 2005 9:25 PM

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