A West Haven family has filed a lawsuit against the city saying the planned use of eminent domain on two of their properties for The Haven is unconstitutional.
Bob McGinnity, 63, has more than 50 years of memories living in his home on 1st Ave. in West Haven. His house and the property his family owns next door stand in the way of The Haven Group LLC's plans to build the upscale waterfront mall.
“You’re taking homes from people and you’re holding a club over their head,” McGinnity said following a press conference outside the Milford Superior Court on Wednesday morning.
McGinnity is represented by local attorneys and the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice.
“Bob’s homes are not for sale,” Attorney Robert McNamara said. “The McGinnitys have offered to accommodate development as much as possible, they’ve offered to willingly sell their large backyard to the developer if they can stay in their longtime homes.”
“It’s not buildable without those pieces of property,” West Haven Mayor Ed O’Brien said. “This is not a strip mall. This is probably one of the first in the country of its kind.”
The mayor said the developer has made McGinnity a generous offer “in excess of maybe 200-percent of the assessed value and the market value.” Nearly all of the property owners have already settled, he added.
McGinnity’s attorneys say Connecticut has seen this situation play out before with the 2005 landmark Kelo v. New London Supreme Court case. The Institute for Justice argues the court got it all wrong by ruling in favor of eminent domain in exchange for the promise of economic growth and more tax revenue.
“What we have here is a private developer using the city," McNamara said. "This is a private entity abusing public power for its own private gain. That’s not just wrong, that’s unconstitutional.”
Mayor O’Brien said he hopes McGinnity’s refusal to settle doesn’t prevent the construction of the mall that will bring jobs, millions of dollars in tax revenue and a clean-up of the waterfront that’s already begun.
“I understand like it’s his family home, I wouldn’t want that to happen,” Mayor O’Brien said, “but then again, you have to look for the greater good of the city.”
McGinnity insists he’s not moving from where he cares for his nearly 80-year-old uncle.
“He’s had a heart attack and stroke a month after finding out that we were going to have eminent domain placed on us,” he said.