West Haven waterfront outlet mall stalled over eminent domain lawsuits

WEST HAVEN - Before a $200 million waterfront outlet mall can be built in West Haven, there are two eminent domain lawsuits the city must contend with.

Over 50 West Haven properties could be transformed into proposed 60-store mall, which would create 800 full-time and 400 part-time jobs, plus $2 million in annual property tax.

But Bob McGinnity, an owner two homes on First Avenue, is mad.

"They're taking my home," said McGinnity, who has lived in one of the homes for over 50 years.

The city, through eminent domain proceedings, is in the process of taking his two homes and a Citgo gas station, on the corner of First Ave. and Elm St. because neither owner agreed to accept the developers offer of up to two times the assessed value of their properties.

McGinnity's attorney, Robert McNamara, of the Institute for Justice, said McGinnity lives in the house he grew up in and those houses are not for sale.

McNamara filed a lawsuit against West haven, on behalf of McGinnity Wednesday, in Milford Superior Court, saying the developer of the Haven mall cannot, by law, enlist the assistance of the city to acquire properties, through eminent domain.

"From my research and talking to our attorneys, we are on very good standing," said Mayor Ed O'Brien, who reviewed the lawsuit and says he feels that McGinnity is just being stubborn.

"If it was my house, I think that you also have to look at for the greater good and the entire community," said O'Brien.

Most in this neighborhood have sold to the developer and support the mall, but it's about family for McGinnity, whose 80 year old uncle lives with him.

"He had a heart attack and stroke a month after finding out that we were going to have eminent domain placed on us," said McGinnity, who offered a compromise. He wanted told the developer they could have both of his large backyards if the homes were permitted to remain occupied. The response?

"None. Zero, No negotiation," said McGinnity.

If this becomes a lengthy court battle, O'Brien is concerned because "the developers at anytime can pull the plug and go build in any other city."

The initial hearing in Milford Superior Court is scheduled for October 17. The owners of the Citgo station have filed an almost identical lawsuit against the city.