Ghosts of Kelo

Back in 2005 the Supreme Court of the United States authored one of its most controversial decisions in years, rivaling Bush v. Gore in both immediate and long-term consequences.

Drug conglomeration Pfizer aimed to build a massive factory in the city of New London, Connecticut. As the company purchased the land of homeowners in the area it wished to build, it was met with a hurdle. Susette Kelo owned a little pink house on the river and would not sell to Pfizer, despite their generous offers. Kelo had dreamed of living in this house,an Pfizer wanted to take it away.

Like any good corporation unsatisfied with owners of land they “deserved,” Pfizer went to the city of New London and demanded the government use its powers to take Kelo’s land under the public use clause of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The 5th Amendment, which includes, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” was written to allow governments to build roads and bridges that the entire public could use. Long story short, the city took the land despite Kelo’s protests.

Fast forward to 2005, after years of lawsuits. Kelo v. City of New London, as the case was eventually named, ended up at the Supreme Court. In a controversial 5-4 decision, the court held that the city had the constitutional right to take the land. The majority argued that, despite the 5th Amendment’s requirement that eminent domain be used for public use, the public economic benefit outweighed the costs. Susette Kelo’s dreams were destroyed.

Ten years later, a city of Colorado is using the same tactics as the City of New London. The owners of Authentic Persian & Oriental Rugs will lose their business of over 30 years, because the City of Glendale, Colorado wants to develop a modern, trendy shopping area next to Cherry Creek. (Incidentally, Cherry Creek already has an upscale shopping center up the road). The city will take the land from the shop owners and hand it to a Houston-based developer.

It’s easy for cities in Colorado to take land from business owners or homeowners. If a city declares an area “blighted,” it can take over the land under the guise of “urban development.” In response to the city’s vote to declare the Persian Rug store “blighted,” the shop owners are holding a “Blighted Block Party” this Saturday, June 13 to protest the city’s decision.

The ghost of Kelo* has appeared in Colorado, and it is a scary sight.

*Susette Kelo is still alive.