One year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled communities could take citizens’ property for the development of private projects, and more than a week after the first deadline came and passed, the last two residents of New London’s Fort Trumbull section trying to hold onto their homes reached what Gov. M. Jodi Rell called an “agreement in principle.”

Rell originally set a June 15 deadline for Suzette Kelo and Michael Cristofaro – who was representing members of his family – the homeowners who have longest resisted the city taking their homes by eminent domain for the construction of a private development that would include office space, luxury condominiums and a hotel. But when an agreement had not yet been reached by then, she extended the deadline. The deadline marked the date the homeowners could either settle with the city or lose the chance to receive state funding, which would go beyond what the city offers.

But according to the Associated Press, Kelo, the homeowner who brought the lawsuit, last week was disputing Rell’s description of a deal and says more needs to be decided before she agrees to leave her home.

“There’s talks. That’s it,” Kelo said last Friday.

The dispute is obviously a significant one for Kelo, the Cristofaros and the other families whose homes were taken by the city. But its impact has reached well beyond New London, and since the Supreme Court case last year, there have been responses at all levels of government, said Dwight Merriam, a partner at the regional law firm Robinson & Cole who concentrates on land-use issues, during a talk earlier this week at a conference held by the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials.

The flurry of activity may be premature, however. So far, 48 states have enacted legislation. But there has not been enough research to determine what laws are necessary to achieve the outcomes the states desire.

“We need to find out who’s taking what and for what purpose,” Merriam said. He added that lawmakers also should realize it is not just homeowners – who are somehow compensated when their properties are taken – who are affected by eminent domain laws. The process can be even worse for tenants, who can be kicked out of their apartments with no compensation.

“Who’s looking out for the disenfranchised here?” Merriam said.

In the states that enacted legislation – and in the U.S. Congress, which has also addressed the issue – there have been three types of changes. Some laws limit the takings to the types of properties, and can depend on the owners and occupants; some laws address the procedures of taking property; and others address compensation.

“Compensation is a mess,” Merriam said. In Maryland, property owners are entitled to the highest appraisal, which could come from the homeowners themselves, Merriam joked. In Kansas, they take the average of two appraisals and double it.

There are several questions lawmakers should ask before enacting new law, Merriam said. They should ask how eminent domain is used in their state; how often it is used; how often it is used for purely public projects; how often homes are lost; how often it is used for economic development or historic preservation; if use has increased or decreased; how often public-private partnerships are used; how often deals are struck without the property use being specified; if there are efforts to negotiate; what are the economic differences between those who settle and those who fight. Other questions include how many court challenges there are and whether they result in more money; what is the relationship of compensation and market value; what are relocation and subjective costs; and what are the social equity issues.

Connecticut is one of the states that has passed legislation. It calls for the creation of an ombudsman for property rights. The person would inform the public of their rights pertaining to eminent domain, advise public agencies about any actions that have potential eminent domain implications, mediate eminent domain disputes and recommend changes to the General Assembly pertaining to eminent domain laws.

Those changes are too late for Kelo and Cristofaro, but Rell expressed satisfaction with the tentative settlement reached last week.

Cristofaro praised Rell and the Department of Economic and Community Development for trying to find a fair solution, according to the AP, but said he was still unsure about the outcome.

“There’s a lot of details in the negotiations that we haven’t totally agreed on and we’re working on those,” he said.