Monday, August 15, 2005

Kelo v, New London gets even worse

A few week's ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the case of Kelo v. New London. The issues revolved around the rights of a government to invoke the clause of eminent domain in order to take property and use it for the public good. In this specific case, the town of New London wanted to exercise it's right to eminent domain not for a bridge or a freeway or some other public item, but rather to build a new shopping mall. That's right. They wanted to take the land from the homeowners and give it to a private developer. New London successfully argued that this new mall would bring economic development to their town and therefore it was in the public's interest. They also argued that they had considered this plan thoroughly and had many meetings and therefore the public had had their chance to respond.

Many people thought that this decision was terrible. There has been discussions of curtailing and further defining the eminent domain clause of the Constitution. Already other cities are citing this case against homeowners for loads of pet "economic development" projects. It's not an epidemic, by any measure, but it smacks of too much government power.

To add insult to injury, there's more news about the losers in the Kelo case. The Fairfield County Weekly is reporting that the government is offering the plaintiffs fair market values for their properties at year 2000 price levels. In 2000 the Kelo residents filed suit to prevent the government from taking their land. The government reasons that the Kelo residents are only to be compensated up to that point and to heck with the rising prices to this date. But, wait, it gets worse: the government, using the same reasoning that they were entitled to the land in 2000, wants to charge the residents back due rent on their property. To the government's mind, these people have been living rent free on their land for 5 years. A quote from the article:

An NLDC estimate assessed Dery for $6,100 per month since the takeover, a debt of more than $300K. One of his neighbors, case namesake 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."

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