Eminent domain could be used to build mall in West Haven

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Over ten years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of New London to allow eminent domain, because they said economic development was considered “public use,” according to the fifth amendment. City officials in West Haven said eminent domain is a last resort, but may be needed for a shopping outlet that they said would be considered public use.

Not that long ago, Sayed Ahmed spent half a million upgrading gas pumps at his West Haven Citgo station. He said the upgrades are paying dividends.

“Our business is going up up up,” Ahmed said. “Everyday going up.”

But that’s all in jeopardy now, as West Haven looks to develop the nearby waterfront and his property stands in the way. The Haven project is years in the making. A total of 57 properties along Water Street and close by need to razed to make way for what’s described as a high-end shopping outlet and public access to the waterfront. Of the 57 properties, four of them cannot come to a deal with the developer, including Ahmed’s business. He said the developer’s offer isn’t even equal to their current property value.

“Compensation you know. Because we are moving to other place,” Ahmed said. “It’s very hard to get good location like that. Business location is (the) main thing.”

With negotiations at an impasse on the four remaining properties, the city will now get involved directly in the negotiations starting Wednesday. West Haven Mayor Ed O’Brien said the use of eminent domain is certainly on the table, but he’s holding out hope it doesn’t come to that point.

“I’ve always said, and I do believe it, the last thing we want to do is take people’s property,” O’Brien said. “That being said, I know some of those offers were high. Above market value.”

Although it’s not his preferred choice, Ahmed is open to moving and leaving the business he works hard to maintain. But only if the price is right. And he said right now, the offer is far too low.

“If we get a good amount (that) we deserve, then maybe we’ll think about that,” Ahmed said.

The overall Haven development is also seen as a way to bring in revenue for a city facing a $10 million deficit. There’s a public hearing this Wednesday. The public will get a chance to sound off about The Haven project and the possibility of eminent domain.

 

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