Jeff Benedict, author of "Little Pink House," the book about the Kelo v. New London eminent domain debacle (and now a movie) has made a video (at the still-vacant Fort Trumbull site), and written an op-ed, arguing that the land should be conveyed back to its former owners, including Ms. Kelo:
Here’s the rub. Thirteen years after the Kelo decision, after all the condemning and evicting and bulldozing, nothing has been built on the land that was taken. Basically, an entire neighborhood was erased in vain. Meantime, all those vacant lots have become New London’s scarlet letter.
Thirteen years of inertia is long enough. For the sake of all parties – the city, the state, and the residents who were displaced – it’s time to turn the page and write an epilogue with a far more redeeming outcome.
But before the city can expect to attract developers and investors with the wherewithal to transform the peninsula, the city must first shed its scarlet letter. The best place to start is by carving out seven contiguous residential building lots – perhaps right along East Street where the pink house once stood – and offering to convey them to Susette Kelo and her six evicted neighbors. The current mayor and City Council are not responsible for the mistakes of the past. But they have the chance to be game changers by formally apologizing and reconciling with the city's displaced residents.
Under Connecticut law, when a development plan is abandoned there is a provision that allows for land seized by eminent domain to be conveyed back to a private party at fair market value. And there’s precedent for this. As recently as two months ago, Connecticut sold land back to a family in Andover whose property was seized by eminent domain.
In the case of Kelo and her six neighbors, officials should forego the fair market value price tag and offer building lots for $1. The city should also agree to restore utilities to the properties; offer property tax abatements until new homes are constructed; and, if necessary, make modifications to zoning laws.
What I’m proposing actually requires more of the former residents of the neighborhood than it does from the city. It’s often harder to forgive than to apologize. And while some of the former plaintiffs may not desire to return to a neighborhood that they associate with so much trauma, it only takes one to lead the way to peace.
He makes some interesting points, and we suggest you read the entire piece and watch the video. Maybe it's time for a bit of "restorative justice" to emanate from the epicenter of the eminent domain battles.