The will undergo a number of changes over the next year, including a change in leadership and mission.
Mayor Daryl Finizio announced Tuesday that the NLDC’s name will be changed to the Renaissance City Development Association. He said the change will also include updates, revisions, and expansions of the organization’s strategic plan and mission statement. It will remain a community-based not-for-profit organization.
Finizio also said Michael W. Joplin, who is currently president of the NLDC, will step down at the end of the year. He will be replaced by Linda Mariani, a New London resident and the organization’s secretary.
“The reorganization of NLDC into the new RCDA, along with the personnel and administrative policy changes announced today, represents the end of an era in New London’s development history,” said Finizio.
Executive order on eminent domain
Along with this change, Finizio announced his fifth executive order. This declares that the power of eminent domain rests solely with the city and not any other agency or corporation. It also says Finizio’s administration believes “that the use of eminent domain should be limited only to situations where the city shall directly and expressly use the property acquired for a public use” and that it is “the intention of the mayor, on behalf of the city of New London, to apologize to all those adversely affected by the City’s past use of eminent domain.”
The order states that the administration “shall not propose or support any legislation to the City Council that shall provide for the use of eminent domain for any project, unless said project provides that the city shall directly use the real property proposed to be acquired.” It says that in terms of economic development projects, the administration “shall strive to treat all private property within the city equally regarding its potential use for an economic development project regardless of any class or financial status of the owner(s).”
Fort Trumbull development
River Bank Construction of Westport has proposed the construction of the “Village on the Thames,” a group of 99 residential units and one commercial building on four parcels at the Fort Trumbull peninsula. The project received in December, and the City Council recently approved a in a development agreement with the NLDC to refer to them as “common interest ownership units.”
John Brooks, a Fort Trumbull development consultant with the NLDC, said the change will not affect the project. River Bank Construction is currently continuing work on the design of the project and seeking financing.
In addition, the has proposed a number of development initiatives for Fort Trumbull, including improved access to the peninsula and the construction of a hotel, cultural site, and pedestrian footbridge to downtown New London. Finizio said the RCDA revisions will incorporate these recommendations, and that the transition in leadership will also “address the title of properties that comprise the municipal development area at Fort Trumbull to insure the rights of the city of New London are protected.”
Finizio said the revisions will also incorporate proposals for green technology, an initiative he has advocated for Fort Trumbull.
“The city will move forward directing its new development agency to act upon a green-integrated development plan for the Fort Trumbull peninsula that incorporates the work of the Yale Urban Design Group,” he said.
During his campaign, Finizio initially said he opposed eminent domain but favored cooperation with the NLDC rather than disbanding the organization, saying it would be too costly of a legal fight. However, he later after River Bank Construction’s —and the —a tax abatement, saying he felt NLDC was proceeding with poor decisions.
Zak Leavy, Finizio’s executive assistant, said the reorganization of the NLDC into the RCDA fulfills the promise.
“NLDC in name, in leadership, and in mission has been effectively abolished,” said Leavy. “The policies of the city of New London have fundamentally changed. By law, the city of New London must have a development agency but the RCDA will be an agency under new leadership, a new name, and a new mission. The mayor is particularly pleased that the leadership of the RCDA will be held by New London residents.”
Leavy said additional departures and additions from the organization’s board of directors will be announced during the transition. The changes are expected to go into effect at the NLDC’s annual meeting in April.
Mariani, an attorney with , said in a statement that she was pleased with the change.
“As a native and current resident of New London, it is a great honor to serve the city in this capacity,” she said.
John S. Johnson, second vice president of the NLDC, said he considers the name change appropriate. He said the organization has had a bad image since the use of eminent domain at Fort Trumbull, but noted that this action was upheld on the legal level up through the Supreme Court case of Kelo v. City of New London.
“I think after he became our mayor he realized that NLDC does serve an important function, that it has accomplished a number of things,” said Johnson.
Johnson said he also considered that Finizio is trying to localize the organization.
“We’ve changed the form of management of the city, and quite frankly the mayor is the boss,” said Johnson. “And I think he is looking to have people involved in NLDC who are probably more involved with the city of New London in terms of where you live and all the rest of it.”
Frank McLaughlin, chairman of NLDC’s House New London neighborhood revitalization program, will continue in this capacity and also serve as project manager for the RCDA. McLaughlin said he thinks the “Village on the Thames” as well as the almost total occupancy of a commercial building at One Chelsea Street are helping attract inquiries about Fort Trumbull development.
“I have a very positive outlook,” said McLaughlin. “I’m a positive person to begin with, and I’m enthused about New London and very enthused about the Village on the Thames.”
Joplin said in a statement that he was also happy to see the townhouse proposal making progress.
“It has been a great honor to serve the NLDC, but it is time to move on and I am happy to be stepping down as the River Bank project breaks ground,” he said.