Aldermen retain eminent domain use: The Connecticut Post, 7/29/06

By Matthew Higbee

The [Derby CT] Board of Aldermen has rejected an ordinance proposed by a businessman inside the city's redevelopment zone that would have barred the use of eminent domain for private developments.

The vote came on Thursday, the same night as an anti-eminent domain rally that attracted activists from around the state and representatives from a Washington-based property rights organization. After the meeting, city officials said that they had no desire to use eminent domain. But at the same time, they said, some of the remaining property owners had not negotiated in good faith with the city or the city's preferred developer, Stoneridge Partners and Ceruzzi-Derby LLC.

"The developer wants to sit down with them. At some meetings, he has told them 'You have my phone number. Let's talk.' But these people don't do anything," Mayor Anthony Staffieri said Friday.

Staffieri said successful settlements with four properties inside the redevelopment zone demonstrated the willingness of the city and the developer to treat the property owners fairly. In the latest deal, the city has agreed to pay the owners of Derby Jewelers $180,000 for its building and $50,000 for relocation costs. Carl Yacobacci, a cabinetmaker who owns several parcels inside the redevelopment zone, said that city officials had abandoned the property owners and were unfairly painting them as greedy troublemakers. "What is the fair market value of our property when we don't want to sell?" asked Yacobacci, adding that with the threat of eminent domain, he was at a severe disadvantage in the negotiations. "We want a reasonable profit. But how do you negotiate when the other party has a maximum limit."

Richard Dunne, a member of the Redevelopment Agency, said that eminent domain was a necessary tool to make sure that taxpayers do not overpay for property.

"The power exists nationwide," Dunne said, adding that without eminent domain, the city would be at a disadvantage in competing for economic development.

Staffieri said that the city had received two separate appraisals for the remaining properties and the corporation counsel would sit down with the owners in the next two weeks.

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