Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Conn. City Leaders OK Riverfront Evictions -

City officials voted Monday night to evict residents who refused to leave their riverfront homes, signaling that the end is near in an eminent domain dispute that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

The City Council approved the action 5-2. The city attorney will now go to court to seek removal of the remaining two families and obtain the properties in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, a process that could take three months.

The city has been trying for a decade to redevelop the once-vibrant neighborhood at the point where the Thames River joins the sea. Seven homeowners challenged the city's plans to seize the property and build a hotel, convention center and upscale condominiums, saying eminent domain can't be used to make way for private development.

But a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling last year upheld the city's right to take the homes, saying municipalities have broad power to do so in favor of private development to generate tax revenue.

Since then, five of the homeowners have settled with the city and agreed to leave. One of them agreed to a settlement just minutes before Monday's meeting began, The Day of New London reported.

About 100 people filled the meeting room, a hallway and an adjacent room Monday night.

Michael Cristofaro, one of the two holdout residents, spoke out before the vote against the property seizures and singled out the five council members who ended up voting to take the property.

"You are a disgrace to the city, the state and the nation," he said.

The other holdout was Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell had proposed letting the holdouts remain in their homes but giving the city the right of first refusal if the houses were ever put up for sale.

The eviction process, which includes another court fight, would take a month to three months.

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