Activist targets justice's home for development
Village officials resist suggestions to turn the house into a commercial resort.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
WEARE, N.H. -- When Tina Pelletier opened the mail at Town Hall the other day, a check for $100 fell out. Someone from out of state wanted to make reservations at Weare's first hotel.
But the bed-and-breakfast envisioned on a remote site at the end of a dirt road is little more than a political activist's pipe dream. The eight-acre parcel is still owned -- although seldom occupied -- by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter.
A proposal to seize Justice Souter's 200-year-old home and replace it with a commercial development follows the court's 5-4 decision June 23 on government seizure of private property by eminent domain. Justice Souter sided with the majority to rule that governments can displace private citizens in the economic interest of the community.
Los Angeles political activist Logan Darrow Clements said he was overwhelmed by the response since his Web site (www.freestarmedia.com) floated the notion of claiming Justice Souter's property shortly after the Kelo vs. New London decision.
"People are not just supportive, they are enthusiastic like I have never seen before in my life," said Clements, 36. He said thousands of people had contacted him to cheer his "Lost Liberty Hotel" project.
"It has taken on a life of its own," he said. "People are practically throwing money at me. They want to invest in the hotel."
But officials in Weare, a town of 8,500, did not welcome the plan to build a resort on Justice Souter's homestead. Four of Weare's five selectmen issued a terse reply to Clements' letter inquiring about pursuing the hotel project.
"We have no desire to take land from any owner, even when a legal taking is possible," the selectmen wrote.
Clements, a follower of the social and political philosophy of Ayn Rand, said he was investigating the possibility of recalling the selectmen. He said he was confident his project would go through.
"The whole project is symbolic, but that doesn't mean we don't plan on doing it for real," he said. "I believe I could actually do it."
Clements described himself as an objectivist, explaining: "If you head toward libertarian and keep going, that is objectivism." In 2003 he ran for governor in California as an objectivist and received 274 votes.
Clements also supports the Free State Project, an effort to move 20,000 libertarians to New Hampshire in order to influence state government.
He said he had never visited Weare, a village about 15 miles from Concord that dates to the 18th century, and had only seen pictures of Justice Souter's rickety farmhouse.
The house -- with dark brown paint peeling off and frayed window shades pulled down -- sits on an unmarked lane off of South Sugar Hill Road. One of the justice's neighbors is the Sugar Hill Speedway, a go-cart track. Chickens wander in and out of nearby home sites. Rusty pickups and creaky farm equipment litter many front yards. Giant greenhead flies eagerly attack visitors.
"This is just crazy," said Winnie Ilsley, 77, who runs a store called Winnie's Little World at the end of Sugar Hill Road. "That hotel is never going to happen."
Clements said he chose Justice Souter as a target because "It had to be somebody. It is easier to go after one person than to go after all five [justices]."