Updated, 1:44 p.m.: Additional information.
NORWALK, Conn. – The seemingly interminable court drama on Jason Milligan’s “POKO” properties has been paused yet again and won’t resume until April 30.
Milligan and his attorney have requested an evidentiary hearing and will present at least one expert witness, who will not “meander” as Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan did, Milligan said Monday.
Milligan is accused of unfair trade practices and tortious interference in the lawsuit filed by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the City of Norwalk, which seek to overturn his purchase of “POKO” phase II and III properties on Isaac Street and Wall Street. A hearing on the plaintiff’s request for a temporary injunction began in December but took a break until mid-January after the plaintiffs amended their complaint, changing the argument against Milligan and other defendants. There were hearings in February and March, a total 11 court dates thus far.
“By bringing up an expert witness, and also having someone intelligent to talk, with no ax to grind, to be honest, it’s refreshing,” Milligan said, expressing confidence that the case against him will be dismissed.
“Milligan’s new argument is that the adoption of the 2019 redevelopment plan somehow deprives the plaintiffs of the ability to bring the lawsuit,” Attorney Joseph Williams, representing the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, wrote to NancyOnNorwalk on Tuesday, explaining the amended motion to dismiss filed by Milligan and his attorney, David Rubin, on Friday. “….Of the course the judge will decide who is credible, and he will have the opportunity to compare Tim Sheehan to Jason Milligan.”
Sheehan’s recent testimony includes an estimate of attorneys’ fees.
“I am very confident that we are $200,000-plus,” Sheehan said on March 6.
Mayor Harry Rilling recently called the lawsuit a “last resort.”
“He’s got a piece of property that’s part of the City’s Redevelopment Plan; a prime piece of property for the city’s redevelopment area,” Rilling said last week. The properties Milligan purchased include municipal lots which the City contributed to the redevelopment project, slated to include more than 100 apartments and ground floor retail. The original developer went bankrupt, the project stalled and lender Citibank foreclosed. The properties Milligan purchased, which are the subject of the City’s lawsuit, contain parking which city officials say is crucial to resuming and completing the development.
The case had been set to resume Tuesday, with testimony by Milligan, and continue through Friday, in what Judge Charles Lee described recently as hopefully the end of the hearing process.
Sheehan said on March 7 that the 2004 Wall Street Redevelopment Plan had expired in June. Williams and Assistant Corporation Counsel Darin Callahan, responding to Milligan’s original request for Lee to dismiss the case, said the plan is actually good for 20 years.
“I am learning how incompetent they are. They don’t know if the plan is expired, or it’s not,” Milligan said Monday.
Rubin’s amended motion seeks to further prove that the Land Disposition Agreement on the properties is dependent upon a valid redevelopment plan. Rubin on Monday wrote to NancyOnNorwalk:
“The Court has scheduled a hearing so as to take evidence on this issue, including the testimony of any expert witnesses. The parties have the right to depose any disclosed experts prior to the hearing, which will take place in April.
“The evidentiary hearing will be predicated solely upon the claim that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, since the 2004 Wall Street Redevelopment Plan expired in June, 2018 and, just last week, the Common Council and RDA approved a brand new plan, which does not reference or incorporate any projects from the expired old plan. Since the LDA itself contemplates that construction must be undertaken consistent with the 2004 plan, which is no longer operative, the contract is unenforceable.”
“An evidentiary hearing is a formal examination of charges by the receiving of testimony from interested persons,” USlegal.com states.
“We will explain in the hearing and in our subsequent brief that the recent plan adoption does not affect the LDA or absolve the Milligan defendants of their tortious conduct and unfair trade practices, most of which had been completed by June 2018,” Williams wrote Tuesday.
Milligan bought the properties on May 31.
“I don’t know if I’m going to take the stand, I think this hearing is going to get tossed,” he said Monday. “I think it will get dismissed on its one-year anniversary and it’s so stupid anyway.”