Many of you will have heard of several eminent domain cases over the past several years that upheld and expanded the rights of local governments to condemn private property and sell it to private developers if it seemed to be “in the public interests.” Of course, as our economic situation and response has shown, often the “public interests” is not so much about you or me, but about what lines the pockets of politicians and the corporations that fund their campaigns. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but I think it’s objectively true.
Well, here’s an example of what can happen when the government foregoes the common good for short sighted agreements with corporations that then fall through:
When Pfizer announced on Monday that it was closing its global research and development headquarters in New London, Conn., the news reverberated far beyond the struggling seaport city. The project, part of an urban renewal effort to bolster the local economy, was the basis for a 2005 Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. New London, upholding government’s eminent domain rights to take private property for public use.
But the New London redevelopment never got off the ground, even after the local and state governments spent more than $80 million to buy and demolish private property to pave the way. Now comes the blow from Pfizer: how will its withdrawal affect future eminent domain battles in redevelopment projects? What are the lessons learned for urban planners and local governments?