The Land Report

FALL 2015

The Magazine of the American Landowner is an essential guide for investors, landowners, and those interested in buying or selling land. The award-winning quarterly is known for its annual survey of America's largest landowners, The Land Report 100.

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O n news channels and talk shows, the verdict was vehemently criticized. Eminent d omain projects that were in the works were suddenly stopped by citizen activism. Polls subsequently showed that 80 percent of the public disapproved of the decision. A nd it all started with a little pink house that overlooked the Thames River in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Connecticut. Susette Kelo, a nurse who had recently gone through a divorce, put all of her money into purchasing and painstakingly restoring the house room by room. She loved the home for the freedom it offered her and the views of the water, and she planned on growing old there. Around the same time that Kelo was restoring her home, scraping old wallpaper and sanding down floors, a group of city officials, Connecticut politicians, and devel- opers were making plans to overhaul her neighborhood. They were meeting in private in the hopes of luring pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to New London to build a major research facility. If they were successful in their efforts, it would put the City of New London back on the map by creating jobs and reviving the economically depressed city. In order to do so, however, Kelo's home and six others in Fort Trumbull would be razed to make way for private development, including a hotel, condos, private office space, and more. The plan was to use the city's eminent domain powers to take the properties and then turn them over to a private nonprofit that would work with private developers. In 2001, Pfizer built a $294 million, 750,000-square-foot facility. The only thing missing was the Fort Trumbull land. But the plucky nurse w ith the pink house wouldn't budge. With Kelo and IJ at the helm, a brave a nd arduous battle ensued. It ended that summer morning when Bullock picked up the phone ten years ago. The six other homes were eventually torn down; Kelo's was r elocated. To top it off, Pfizer pulled out of New London in 2011 and ended up never using the Fort Trumbull land that was cleared for them. The razed homesites and other properties? They are now occupied by feral cats and waist-high weeds. The story reads like a property owner's worst nightmare, which is probably why it struck a chord with so many. "Kelo is one of those rare issues that unites people across the nation regardless of political persuasion or economic background," says Bullock. And with just an overgrown lot left in the case's wake, it would appear that nothing good has come out of the whole debacle. However, as one of the most disputed deci- sions in the history of the Supreme Court, the Kelo case has led to eminent domain reform laws in 45 states and has, according to Bullock, halted at least 60 projects that relied on the use of eminent domain and blight designations that would have paved the way for eminent domain abuse. 20 The LandReport | FA L L 2 0 1 5 LANDREPORT.COM "Kelo is one of those rare issues that unites people across the nation regardless of political persuasion or economic background. " — Scott Bullock, Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice

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