Last holdouts give up property in city land-seizure case

HARTFORD, Conn. – The last two holdouts in a government land-seizure case that led to a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to leave their property to make way for private development.

Part of the agreement involves moving the pink cottage belonging to Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff.

“Even though she lost her land, the little pink home that launched a national revolution is safe, and it’s going to stand as a testament to her heroic struggle and the struggle against eminent domain abuse throughout the country,” said Scott Bullock, a spokesman for the Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners.

The city of New London’s development arm, the New London Development Corp., first condemned the properties in 2000, and several homeowners sued.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last year that the city had the right to seize the homes. The court also said states were free to change their eminent domain laws, and Legislatures in 20 states have since passed limits; the Democrat-controlled Connecticut General Assembly was not one of them.

Pasquale Cristofaro, the other holdout, agreed to give up his home but is entitled to purchase a new one in the neighborhood at a fixed price if new homes are built. He also has the option to build in the neighborhood, as long as whatever he builds complies with the plan for a riverfront project.

The amount of money involved in the settlements was not released.

“I’m now able to get my life back, but the thing is, I will never stop fighting for people’s property rights across this nation,” said Pasquale Cristofaro’s son Michael. “There’s a lot of good things coming out because of our fight here in New London. People are uprising across the nation.”

Kelo and Cristofaro faced the possibility of forced eviction as the city made way for a riverfront project slated to include condominiums, a hotel and office space. The five other property owners in the case had already settled with the city and handed over their properties.

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