Kelo v. City of New London, (SC 16742)

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation268 Conn. 1,843 A.2d 500
Decision Date09 March 2004
Docket Number(SC 16742)

Sullivan, C. J., and Borden, Norcott, Katz, Palmer, Vertefeuille and Zarella, Js.1

Scott G. Bullock, pro hac vice, and Dana Berliner, pro hac vice, with whom, on the brief, were Scott W. Sawyer, William H. Mellor, pro hac vice, and Clark Neily, pro hac vice, for the appellants-appellees (plaintiffs).

Thomas J. Londregan, with whom were Jeffrey T. Londregan and, on the brief, Brian K. Estep, for the appellee-appellant (named defendant).

Edward B. O'Connell, with whom was David P. Condon, for the appellee-appellant (defendant New London Development Corporation).



The principal issue in this appeal is whether the public use clauses of the federal and state constitutions authorize the exercise of the eminent domain power in furtherance of a significant economic development plan that is projected to create in excess of 1000 jobs, to increase tax and other revenues, and to revitalize an economically distressed city, including its downtown and waterfront areas. The plaintiffs,2 owners of certain real property in the city of New London, appeal3 from the judgment of the trial court denying their request for permanent injunctive relief to prevent the defendants, the city of New London (city), a municipal corporation, and the New London Development Corporation (development corporation), a private nonprofit economic development corporation, from exercising eminent domain authority to condemn the plaintiffs' properties located on parcel 3 of the development corporation's municipal development plan (development plan). The defendants cross appeal4 from the judgment of the trial court granting the plaintiffs' request for permanent injunctive relief with respect to those properties located on parcel 4A of the development plan.

On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the trial court improperly concluded that: (1) the taking of the plaintiffs' land was authorized under chapter 132 of the General Statutes; (2) economic development constitutes a valid public use under the takings clauses of the state and federal constitutions, and that these takings will sufficiently benefit the public and bear reasonable assurances of future public use; (3) the delegation of the eminent domain power to the development corporation was not unconstitutional; (4) the taking of the plaintiffs' land on parcel 3 was reasonably necessary to the development plan; and (5) the development corporation, by allowing a private social club, but not the plaintiffs' properties to remain on parcel 3, did not violate the plaintiffs' federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection of the laws. We affirm the judgment of the trial court with respect to the claims presented in the plaintiffs' appeal.

On their cross appeal, the defendants contend that the trial court improperly concluded that: (1) the condemnation of the plaintiffs' properties on parcel 4A was not reasonably necessary to accomplish the development plan; and (2) the city's general power to widen and alter its roadways did not justify the taking of the plaintiffs' properties on parcel 4A. We reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to the defendants' cross appeal.

The record reveals the following background facts and procedural history, as aptly set forth in the trial court's comprehensive memorandum of decision. "In 1978, the [development corporation] was established to assist the city in planning economic development. In January, 1998, the state bond commission authorized bonds to support planning activities in the Fort Trumbull area [of the city] and property acquisition to be undertaken by [the development corporation] in support of the project and other money toward the ultimate creation of a state park at Fort Trumbull. In February, 1998, [Pfizer, Inc. (Pfizer)] announced that it was developing a global research facility on the . . . New London Mills site which is adjacent to the Fort Trumbull area. In April, 1998, the New London city council gave initial approval to prepare a development plan for the Fort Trumbull area and the [development corporation] began holding informal neighborhood meetings regarding the [development plan] process. In May, 1998, the city council authorized [the development corporation] to proceed under chapters 130, 132 and/or 588 (l) of the [General] Statutes.

"The state bond commission approved more funds for [the development corporation] activity. In June, 1998, the city formally conveyed the New London Mills site to Pfizer. In July, 1998, a consulting team was appointed for the state Environmental Protection Act process and to prepare the [development plan]. Six alternative plans for the project area were considered as part of the required environmental impact evaluation."

The development plan area is approximately ninety acres in size and is located on the Thames River in New London, adjacent to the proposed Fort Trumbull State Park, and the Pfizer global research facility, which opened in June, 2001. See Appendix to this opinion. It presently includes residential and commercial areas, and is comprised of approximately 115 land parcels. The development plan area also includes the presently closed United States Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which is thirty-two acres, and also the regional water pollution control facility.

In its preface to the development plan, the development corporation stated that its goals were to create a development that would complement the facility that Pfizer was planning to build, create jobs, increase tax and other revenues, encourage public access to and use of the city's waterfront, and eventually "build momentum" for the revitalization of the rest of the city, including its downtown area.

The development plan itself is divided into seven parcels of land. Parcel 1 will include a waterfront hotel and conference center, along with marinas for both transient tourist boaters, and commercial fishing vessels. Parcel 1 also will include a public walkway along the waterfront. Parcel 2 will provide for approximately eighty new residences, organized into an urban neighborhood and linked by public walkway to the remainder of the development plan, including the Fort Trumbull State Park. Space will be reserved at the southern end of parcel 2 for the United States Coast Guard Museum (museum), which will be moved to the development plan area from the nearby United States Coast Guard Academy.

Parcel 3 is projected to have at least 90,000 square feet of high technology research and development office space and parking.5 This office space would be located close to other research and development facilities, including those of Pfizer. The location of parcel 3 allows for direct vehicular access to the development therein, obviating the need for that traffic to pass through the rest of the development area. Parcel 3 also will retain the existing Italian Dramatic Club, a private social organization with its own building. Four properties owned by three of the plaintiffs are located on parcel 3.

Parcel 4 is subdivided into two smaller parcels, 4A and 4B. Parcel 4A is designated for "park support"; it will provide parking or retail services for the adjacent state park. Parcel 4B will include a marina, which will be a renovation of an existing marina and include slips for both recreational boating and commercial fishing operations. The walkway will be continued through these parcels. Eleven properties owned by four of the plaintiffs are located on parcel 4A.

Parcel 5 also is subdivided into three separate parcels, which cumulatively will include 140,000 square feet of office space, parking and retail space. Parcel 6 will be developed for a variety of water-dependent commercial uses. Parcel 7 is small and will be used for additional office or research and development use.

According to Admiral David Goebel, chief operating officer of the development corporation, the development corporation will own the land located within the development area. The development corporation will enter into ground leases of various parcels to private developers; those leases will require the developer to comply with the terms of the development plan. At the time of trial, the development corporation was negotiating with Corcoran Jennison, a developer, with the intention of entering into a ninety-nine year ground lease of parcels 1, 2 and 3 with the developer. Under the lease, Corcoran Jennison will pay the development corporation rent of $1 per year. Corcoran Jennison will actually develop the parcels, a process that includes marketing for and locating tenants.

The development corporation estimated that the development plan, which is a composite of the most beneficial features of six alternate development plans that it had considered,6 would have a significant socio-economic impact on the New London region. The development plan is expected to generate approximately between: (1) 518 and 867 construction jobs; (2) 718 and 1362 direct jobs; and (3) 500 and 940 indirect jobs. The composite parcels of the development plan also are expected to generate between $680,544 and $1,249,843 in property tax revenues for the city, in which 54 percent of the land area is exempt from property taxes. These gains would occur in a city that, with the exception of the new Pfizer facility adjacent to the development plan area that now employs approximately 2000 people, recently has experienced serious employment declines, particularly with the loss of approximately 1900 government sector positions, and the closure of the United States Naval Undersea Warfare Center in 1996, which transferred more than 1000 positions to Newport, Rhode Island.7 Indeed, the state office of policy and management has designated the city a "`distressed municipality.'"

The development corporation board...

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