The is no more, at least when it comes to the name.
The NLDC membership voted 20-16 at its annual meeting on Thursday to change its name to the Renaissance City Development Association. The name change came at the recommendation of the organization’s board of directors.
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NLDC President Michael Joplin said Mayor Daryl Finizio recommended the change when Joplin and members of NLDC’s executive committee met with him in January. Joplin said the organization has also considered changing its name in the past, saying it has been “unfairly tarred and feathered” due to its role in the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case before the United States Supreme Court.
“Everyone in this room knows we’ve got baggage, and it’s spelled K-E-L-O,” said Joplin.
What’s in a name?
In January, Finizio—who but later in his mayoral campaign—announced that the but that it would remain a community-based not-for-profit organization. He coupled the announcement with an executive order declaring that the power of eminent domain will rest with the city rather than any organization or agency. This order also apologized to those negatively affected by the city's past use of eminent domain, said any use of eminent domain would be limited to property acquisition for public rather than private use, and that the city “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)” in economic development.
Several members of the NLDC spoke in favor of a name change, but were hesitant to agree to the one offered by Finizio. NLDC member Stephen Percy said the term “Renaissance City” has been used by Norwich, and suggested that an ad hoc committee could review other possible names. Percy also defended the NLDC, saying it had worked to improve infrastructure at Fort Trumbull and that its actions were upheld by the courts at every level in the Kelo case.
“If there’d been a little more support from the media, we probably wouldn’t have this public relations fiasco that’s plagued the city for so long,” said Percy.
First Vice-President Karl-Erik Sternlof said sending the issue to a committee would require a special meeting of the full membership to act on a name change.
“We need to change the name to break the link to the past, on Google if nothing else,” said Sternlof.
Secretary Linda Mariani said she did not consider the name proposal her favorite one, but felt it was necessary to move the organization forward. She said she did not want to see progress at Fort Trumbull stalled as River Bank Construction of Westport proceeds with a plan to construct 99 townhouse units and one commercial building on four parcels at the peninsula.
“Let’s get something done,” she said. “Let’s change the name. Let’s move on.”
The organization also named the officers for the next year. Joplin and Sternlof were returned to their positions. Other officers are Second Vice-President John S. Johnson, Treasurer Ronald W. Nossek, Deputy Treasurer Nick Caplanson, Secretary Linda Mariani, and Assistant Secretary Andrew Russell.
Finizio announced in January that Joplin will resign at the end of the year and Mariani will take his place. Joplin said Thursday that he agreed to step down once he was confident that the organization is “healthy and accomplishing the task it has been assigned.” He said he could step down once there is significant progress on the townhouse project.
Robert Stillman, a principal with River Bank Construction, noted that the project has received and said he is working with City Planner Harry Smith to get the necessary building permits. Stillman said other developments include completion of civil engineering and landscaping plans, the hiring of a full-time estimator to evaluate costs, and work toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
“I can’t promise a specific date. I think it will be toward the end of this year,” Stillman said of the projected start of construction.
Frank McLaughlin, chairman of NLDC’s House New London program, said the program has been successful in rehabilitating residences around the city. He said this in turn helps revitalize neighborhoods and strengthen the city’s tax base.
“I get the greatest pleasure of taking junk and turning it into something that is usable,” he said.
Mayor Daryl Finizio, speaking at the beginning of the meeting, said his administration intends to form a new relationship with the organization.
“The closer we can work together, the better we can advance our entire community,” he said.