Eminent Domain Procedure Revised: Norwalk CT Citizen-News, 3/15/07

By Lauren Garrison

The power to oversee the use of eminent domain in the Wall Street Redevelopment Project was returned to the [Norwalk CT] Common Council on Tuesday.

In a unanimous vote with President Michael Coffey, D-At Large, abstaining, the council approved the Spring 2007 Proposed Plan Modification to the Wall Street Redevelopment Plan Summer 2004.

According to Planning Committee Chairman Matthew Miklave, D-At Large, the modification serves to reverse a measure included in the Wall Street redevelopment plan that was approved in 2004 and authorized the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency to exercise the power of eminent domain on a list of 20 to 30 properties. The modification also makes the procedure for the use of eminent domain in the Wall Street project consistent with the procedure in the West Avenue Corridor Redevelopment Project.

With the modification, the council will discuss and vote on the use of eminent domain for each parcel being considered before granting the NRA the authority to seize it.

According to Miklave, the NRA proposed the modification for a number of reasons. Miklave said he and NRA Executive Director Timothy Sheehan had discussed the issue extensively and agreed that it was important for the city to be consistent with the way it approached eminent domain.

In addition, the previous version of the Wall Street plan required the NRA to exercise eminent domain on the parcels listed by July 2007, at which time it would lose its power to do so. However, said Miklave, "the implementation of the plan has not gone as quickly as the Redevelopment Agency or the council would have liked." Though the deadline is fast approaching, the NRA is not yet ready to seize those properties, he said.

During the public participation segment of the meeting, Ed Schmidt, the attorney representing several Wall Street property owners, argued that the city could not extend the deadline on the use of eminent domain without the consent of the property owners a consent that his clients are not willing to give.

State law dictates that the deadline may be extended if the NRA asks for an extension, the council approves it and the property owners consent, according to Miklave.

However, as Sheehan explained at the meeting, modifying the plan serves to restart the process, thus allowing the council to set a new deadline on the use of eminent domain. The amended plan has had to go through the Planning Commission, NRA and Planning Committee for comment as well as through a series of public hearings.

On Wednesday, Miklave said, "I'm pleased we're moving forward. We still have a long way to go. It's a very exiting time in our city, and we look for further public participation in making these very important decisions. At the end of the day, we're going to transform our city in ways I think we're going to be very proud of in years to come."

Norwalk CT Citizen-News: http://www.norwalkcitizen-news.com