NEW LONDON, Conn. – City officials voted to evict two homeowners at the center of an eminent domain battle who refuse to leave their riverfront homes, even after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling that the city can seize the property for a private development project.
The City Council voted 5-2 in favor of eviction Monday. An attorney for the residents said they are considering continuing to fight.
"You are a disgrace to the city, the state and the nation," one of the residents, Michael Cristofaro, told council members who voted to evict.
The city has been trying for a decade to redevelop the once-vibrant neighborhood at the point where the Thames River joins the sea. Seven homeowners challenged the city's plans to seize the property and build a hotel, convention center and upscale condominiums, saying eminent domain can't be used to make way for private development.
But the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last year to uphold the city's right to take the homes, saying municipalities have broad power to do so in favor of private development to generate tax revenue.
Since then, five of the homeowners have settled with the city and agreed to leave. Two holdouts, Cristofaro and Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, still refuse to sell.
The vote came five days after a settlement deadline. One resident agreed to a settlement just minutes before Monday's meeting began, The Day of New London reported.
The city attorney plans go to court to seek removal of the remaining two families and obtain the properties in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, a process that could take three months. Scott Bullock, a lawyer for the residents, said they will consider asking the state to pull funding for the development.
City councilman Robert Pero, who supported the effort to remove the families, noted that the issue has been through state agencies and three courts.
"This was a plan that was well thought out," he said. "The development of this peninsula needs to move forward."
But Charles Frink, one of the two council members who voted against the plan, said supporters should admit their mistake.
"I can't accept a possible reduction in taxes by having neighbors thrown out of their property," he said. "This is morally abhorrent to me. I refuse to profit from my neighbor's pain."