Eminent domain looms over land deal

Photo by Thomas Breen

Vacant 44 Brewster St. lot: will the town’s acquisition be “friendly”?

File photo of Nora Grace-Flood

Poitier: An eminent domain “not going to set foot there”.

The Elicker administration is seeking to pay a Hamden-based landlord $150,000 to acquire two vacant, overgrown plots of land in Newhallville – both of which are currently being sued for tax foreclosure, and both of which could be taken by eminent domain if the city and the owner can’t come to an agreement.

It’s the latest thorny legal file with the lots at 44 Brewster St. and 173 Ivy St.

That the city wants to buy for $150,000.

What the city is too is currently trying to seize owing over $58,000 in back taxes.

And that the city is considering taking via eminent domain if the properties current owner, Brack Poitier, does not accept a friendly acquisition.

Poitier is not too happy.

They need to contact my lawyer and sit down and make a logical, reasonable and fair offer,” Poitier told the Independent in a recent phone interview. Eminent domain, he said, won’t hit him.

So. What exactly is going on here?

The future adult education home at 188 Bassett St.

Vacant fenced lots adjacent to 44 Brewer and 173 Ivy cover a total of almost 0.7 acres just off the Farmington Canal Trail in Newhallville.

They also sit across from the empty old State Social Services building at 188 Bassett St., which the city and Board of Education plan to convert into the new headquarters of New York’s Adult Education Program. haven.

According to a recent presentation by the Livable City Initiative (LCI) Acquisition of property & Disposition Coordinator Evan Trachten at city ​​plan commissionthe Elicker administration wants to buy two lots nearby and convert them into surface parking spaces for the future adult education center.

The school board is is looking to construct an addition “to the public building on Bassett Street, Trachten said at the city’s Plan Commission meeting Sept. 21, which would swallow up some of the current surface parking at this site.

The acquisition of 44 Brewsters and 173 Ivys will allow the city and the school system have enough parking to support activities” at the relocated adult education program, he continued. This lot is a natural option for us,” as it is directly across from the Bassett Street building, he said.

Both of these lots are owned by local owner and building contractor Poitier, who lives in Hamden and is the chairman of the Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission.

According to City Plan Commission Staff Report for the proposed land transaction and according to written minutes of the August 17 meeting of the LCI Property Acquisition group & Arrangement (BUFFER) Committeethe city is seeking to pay Poitier $150,000 to purchase these two properties.

This plan to buy the city’s double lot for $150,000 has already won votes of support from the City Plan Commission, LCI’s BUFFER Committee and, at a separate meeting on September 28, the LCI Board of Directors. It is now submitted to the full Council of Alders for review and final vote.

A closer examination of the LCI Board meeting minutes and state court records reveal that this is not a typical land deal offered by the city.

It doesn’t look particularly harmonious either.

Eminent domain on the table

Enlarge images

During the City Plan Commission’s virtual meeting on September 21.

The City always negotiates the purchase price with the owner,” LCI BUFFER reading of the minutes of the committee meeting of August 17.

Later, these same minutes specify: The properties are in tax foreclosure and all taxes will be paid by the seller at closing. Evan thinks the land is worth around $6 a square foot and the land is 30,000 square feet. Evan said eminent domain was an option, but the city preferred to make a friendly acquisition. We are trying to put this in place, the agreement is not yet defined at the moment. If we had a land reserve, we might be able to buy the property in a foreclosure sale.

The BUFFER The committee then voted unanimously in favor of the city’s proposed $150,000 purchase of 44 Brewster and 173 Ivy.

The Minutes of the September 28 meeting for the LCI board of directorsmeanwhile, show that negotiations between the city and Poitiers only worsened in the weeks that followed.

LCI hired the owner and sent an offer to the owner for $150,000,” read the minutes of the Sept. 28 meeting. Evan received a call from attorney Wendy Clarke who represents the owner of Brack Poitier and informed Evan that the owner was opportunistic and was asking for $300,000 plus a rebate of approximately $68,000 in back taxes. The properties are currently in foreclosure. LCI would like the Board of Directors to authorize the City to acquire this property and give us the possibility of using all our tools, up to eminent domain.

Nevertheless, these meeting minutes indicate, LCI will continue to engage the owner to acquire this land in friendly acquisition. The Board of Education will cover the cost of acquisition.

According to these same records, LCI Board member Nadine Horton then asked city staff if the landlord’s refusal to sell these two lots to the city would delay the move of the adult education program to Bassett Street.

Evan told the board that the city could use eminent domain and take ownership as a last resort,” read the minutes. A judge will decide the fair market value if it ends in a take (fair compensation). City staff believe our offer of $150,000 is a reasonable amount based on court assessments. The city has hired assessors, but this project is urgent, so we are moving forward while our assessments are pending. The City does not have the ability to purchase this property at a foreclosure sale should an auction be held.

173 Ivy St.

How long has Poitier been behind on its property taxes for these two lots? LCI Council chairman Seth Poole then asked.

The years of non-payment are from 2013,” the minutes of the meeting read. The lot is currently overgrown and has multiple vehicles on site. The site has an odd shape and the plots do not have the typical shape of adjacent plots, which would complicate residential development. The shape also has an impact on the value. The site is currently ravaged by overgrown vegetation and abandoned vehicles.

The LCI The board then voted unanimously in favor of the land deal. The minutes of the meeting indicate that this vote covered more ground than the proposed purchase price of $150,000.

Here is how this vote is described in the minutes of the meeting: A motion was presented by Alder [Ernie] Santiago to acquire the property for an amount not to exceed $150,000 as a friendly acquisition, and also to authorize the acquisition to take the property for school purposes and to use all tools available to the city of New Haven, including and up to eminent domain at fair market value as determined by the judge, seconded by Nadine Horton, roll call as taken, approved unanimously.

And state court records show the city first filed a lawsuit against Poitier over those two properties. back in May 2019. On Wednesday, the city filed an entry sheet in these pending court cases which list the discounted debt of the properties at $58,860.11.

Poitier’s most recent filing in the foreclosure case was a September 30 prorogation motion. The defendant’s internet connection (speed) is insufficient to participate in the virtual courtroom proceedings,” this stay request states in part. On August 12 of this year, Poitier filed an affidavit the court affirming that, until then, he had has not received any copies of the pleadings and/or filings since the commencement of this matter, except for the ASSIGNMENT & COMPLAINT of the marshal.

What does Poitier have to say about all of this — including the city’s proposed $150,000 land deal and the threat of eminent domain and the ongoing foreclosure lawsuit — now?

Poitier: still in negotiation; “The taxes will be paid”

In a telephone interview on Thursday afternoon, Poitier told the Independent that he and his lawyer are still in active negotiations with the city over these two vacant lots.

I have no say” over the initial $150,000 purchase price offered by the city, Poitier said. Because this case is still under negotiation.

He said the city’s approach to dealing with him on these issues, even going so far as to threaten eminent domain, has been hypocrite” because I have been in New Haven for a long time and have done a lot of quality work.

I might as well get houses built there,” he said of lots 44 Brewster and 173 Ivy. Earlier this week, he said, he went through the grounds to repair the fences. He said he also noticed that the grounds were occupied by homeless people.

What about legal action for tax seizure? Does he agree with the city that he is way behind on his property taxes for these two sites? If so, why hasn’t he paid his taxes?

We got in trouble during Covid,” he said. It cost me a lot of money.”

Moreover, he said, these empty lots, vacant lots, they’re not going anywhere. They were taken care of. They were closed. He said he fixed the fence already two or three times.

Taxes will be paid,” he promised. I need time to make them pay.

He concluded by calling on the city to continue to negotiate with him around these two properties.