Imagine trying to peacefully enjoy your retirement in your childhood home, only to have government officials try to force you out because a private company wants your property for its own purposes.
Bob McGinnity, 63, is living out this horrible scenario right now. He has more than 50 years of memories living in his home on 1st Ave. in West Haven, Connecticut.
But his house – and the property his family owns next door – are obstructing The Haven Group LLC’s plan to build a $200 million outlet mall called The Haven.
The city, through eminent domain proceedings, is in the process of taking his two homes and a Citgo gas station. The McGinnity family and the owners of the Citgo station have both filed lawsuits against the city.
“Imagine someone coming to your front door and telling you ‘we are taking your house,” said McGinnity. “That is what everybody should be thinking when you think about eminent domain.”
McGinnity is represented by local attorneys and the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice (IJ).
IJ Attorney Robert McNamara told NBC Connecticut:
Bob’s homes are not for sale. 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.
McGinnity remodeled the home and his elderly uncle, Michael Perrone, lives in the unit below him.
He said his uncle had a heart attack and a stroke “a month after finding out that we were going to have eminent domain placed on us.” His attorneys have said he is his uncle’s primary caretaker and moving might mean putting Perrone in a nursing home rather than keeping him in his home.
West Haven Mayor Ed O’Brien told NBC that the mall will bring jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to the city. He said the developer has made McGinnity a generous offer “in excess of maybe 200-percent of the assessed value and the market value.”
In March, Haven Group executive Vice President Matt Armstrong told the city council that The Haven would pay $2 million in annual property tax and create more than $15 million in incremental sales tax for the state.
Of course, government officials and developers only recognize value in terms of dollars and how they will financially benefit from bullying McGinnity into submission.
“What we’re talking about, is the value of a childhood home. What we’re talking about is keeping his uncle at home,” said McNamara.
McGinnity said what the city and the developer have called a good offer is “not to what the property is worth.”
“That’s their position of what it’s worth, not mine,” said McGinnity.
In a September 28 press release, IJ explained that Connecticut is home to a very controversial eminent domain case, one that set a troubling precedent:
Connecticut was the site of the landmark Kelo v. New London case, the widely reviled 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held government officials could use eminent domain to take private property based on nothing more than a promise to generate more tax revenue. The decision launched a nationwide backlash—44 states reformed their eminent domain laws, and nine state supreme courts have rejected the Kelo decision.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Kelo is the fact that, after people were forced out of their homes, the development promised never even happened.
Twelve years later, the neighborhood destroyed by New London is a vacant lot populated only by grass, weeds and feral cats.
And, there is a significant difference between Kelo and McGinnity’s case, as McNamara explains:
This case is worse than Kelo. In Kelo, the courts held that government officials could use a private developer to advance a redevelopment plan. But here, a private developer is using the government. West Haven did not want a shopping mall; the developer did. West Haven did not come up with a plan for this area; the developer did. And West Haven did not decide to take the McGinnitys’ properties; the developer did. That is not just wrong. It is unconstitutional.
“What we have here is a private developer using the city,” McNamara told NBC. “This is a private entity abusing public power for its own private gain. That’s not just wrong, that’s unconstitutional.”
Unfortunately, McGinnity’s case isn’t the only one of its kind, and Connecticut isn’t the only state that is using eminent domain to bully home and business owners, as IJ reports:
The controversy in West Haven is part of a national resurgence in eminent domain abuse. After years of relative quiet in the wake of Kelo and the housing-market crash of 2008, land-hungry developers have teamed up with tax-hungry bureaucrats in state after state, with controversies brewing everywhere from Connecticut to Georgia to California and beyond.
Property ownership used to be the American Dream. Eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, and seizures over minuscule unpaid property tax bills are terrifying examples of policies that have turned that dream into an American Nightmare.
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Contributed by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”