Quantcast

Milligan threatens legal action over Norwalk utility box

A utility box that had been next to 69 Wall St. sits in the back of a pickup truck on Feb. 27. (Contributed)

A worker installs a new utility box, Feb. 27 at 69 Wall St. (Contributed)

Updated, 8:17 p.m.: Photo added.

NORWALK, Conn. – A real estate broker with a history of legal battles against the City says that a utility box on his property is there illegally.  City officials disagree.

The latest legal contretemps between Jason Milligan and the City of Norwalk involves a signal box next to his building at 69 Wall St.

“Milligan has been on defense. Offense starts today,” Milligan wrote Tuesday to NancyOnNorwalk.  He attached a letter from one of his lawyers to City officials demanding that the box be immediately removed on the grounds that the City “has no rights to the use of the property.”

The City does have the rights, Assistant Corporation Counsel Darin Callahan wrote to Milligan’s lawyer Candace Fay, in a sternly-worded reply warning Fay of her professional responsibility “to only assert good-faith claims.” Norwalk Communications Manager Joshua Morgan then released a statement which charges that Milligan is “working against the best interests of the neighborhood strictly to be a nuisance to the City” as he “wastes the city’s time and money with unsubstantiated allegations and complaints.”

 

Milligan ‘on offense’

“How sloppy & disorganized is the City of Norwalk?” Milligan’s Tuesday email asked.

The old utility box, in the back of a pickup truck on Feb. 27. (Contributed)

He had written to Director of Transportation, Mobility and Parking Kathryn Hebert on March 11 to complain about the signal box at 69 Wall St., arguing that although there’s an easement on the land records, it allows pedestrian access, not a box.  “I do not wish to have it remain there unless we can come up with fair / appropriate lease terms,” he wrote.

Hebert referred him to corporation counsel. Milligan, in the Monday phone call, objected to the involvement of Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola, who he refers to as “Super Mario.”

Callahan in March requested that the matter go through Attorney David Rubin, who is representing Milligan in the POKO lawsuit, “to avoid any suggestion of impropriety.”

Fay’s Tuesday letter to Callahan and Hebert directs them to immediately cease and desist any and all use of Milligan’s land.  “Should the City choose to continue to trespass on the Owner’s Property a legal action will commence immediately,” she wrote.

Callahan replied:

“Please be advised that the City has a perpetual easement and right of way for all lawful purposes in, under, over and through the area between 69 and 71 Wall Street. A simple title search should have alerted you to this fact. As such, your client’s claim of an unlawful encroachment is baseless. In the future, I trust you will undertake greater caution before sending similar demand letters as you have a professional responsibility to only assert good-faith claims after a reasonable investigation of the underlying facts.”

 

“Darren really should do better research and he should watch his tone,” Milligan wrote to NancyOnNorwalk.  He added a vulgar personal insult directed at Callahan.

“Thank you for your letter of today’s date which illustrates exactly why the City of Norwalk is positioned so poorly,” Fay wrote back to Callahan. “Let me be clear, you are wrong. Your reading of the operative deed demonstrates a serious lack of very basic simple legal principles.”

Fay included a copy of the deed and offered her interpretation of the wording, claiming that it does not allow the box because it was not present on a map created when the easement was agreed.

“It would be reasonable to think that you, as Associate Corporation Counsel, would go to Town Clerk’s Office (located in the same building as you) and review the attached items before writing such an inappropriate letter to the undersigned, an attorney  who did take the time to review these documents,” she wrote. “Instead, you have chosen not to do so, thereby inviting yet another litigation which could cost the taxpayers to spend even more money from their seemingly limitless pockets.”

Callahan replied to NancyOnNorwalk’s request for comment on Fay’s letter:

“It is not productive for me to respond to Attorney Fay’s most recent letter other than to say I am very comfortable with my position on this issue and prepared to address the matter in court if need be,” Callahan wrote.

 

Morgan wrote:

“A title search and examination of the land records for 69 Wall Street shows a long-standing easement that grants the City right of way access for the traffic signal box. It is surprising that Mr. Milligan would not be aware of this easement on his property which has been in existence since 1956.

“What is not surprising, however, is that Mr. Milligan would try to disrupt and distract the law department. Mr. Milligan claims to be the target of frivolous lawsuits, yet, is the one who continually wastes the city’s time and money with unsubstantiated allegations and complaints. He is working against the best interests of the neighborhood strictly to be a nuisance to the City.”

Milligan Hebert Callahan 3-11-19

Fay to Callahan 01012820190409103503[3]

Response to April 9, 2019 Demand Letter

Fay response to Callahan 01017420190409181532

 

 

A history of legal issues

Milligan’s legal battles with Norwalk began when the Norwalk Public Library Foundation in 2017 filed a lawsuit appealing his Zoning approval to build apartments on Belden Avenue, on a parcel next to the library.  The foundation is a federally certified nonprofit organization, not a city agency, and Milligan called this a “sneaky” workaround because one city agency cannot sue another. The lawsuit was settled when the City paid Milligan $460,000 for a six-year option to buy his lot, which was seen as critical to solving a longtime parking shortage for the library.

Milligan says that experience inspired him to become an activist.  In his telling, he swooped in and bought properties that were slated to be used as part of the stalled Wall Street Place development, often called “POKO,” because he thought that would give him a seat at the table for discussions about the area.  He has claimed to NancyOnNorwalk on multiple occasions that his actions are driven strictly out of concern for the Wall Street neighborhood, rather than by financial gain.  Prior to the purchase, he read the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for the properties and interpreted the language to mean that once he bought the property City leaders would declare a default and negotiate with the parties involved, during the 30-day cure period that’s mentioned.

Instead, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the City declared a breach of contract, calling the default “incurable,”  and sued Milligan and Richard Olson of POKO partners, alleging that their transaction violated the LDA. The plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction on Milligan has resulted in a lengthy hearing process.

Milligan said Monday he thinks the Redevelopment Agency’s legal bills in the matter have topped $500,000. Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan did not reply to a Monday email asking what the latest total is. In court last month, he said they were more than $200,000.

Stamford Superior Court Judge Charles Lee is expected on April 30 to hear evidence in Milligan’s attempt to have the case dismissed. Olson has also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs did not follow the default procedures outlined in the LDA. CCR Rivington, another defendant in the case, has filed a motion to strike the charges it faces.

“While we await the removal of the grey box on my property I thought it would blend in better if it were fenced off and wrapped in the City colors,” Jason Milligan wrote Wednesday. (Contributed)

The plaintiffs are “down a rabbit hole,” Milligan said in a Tuesday phone call to NancyOnNorwalk. “They are going to be at $1 million (in legal bills) and they still can’t get a preliminary injunction.”

 

 

 

All-out war?

Coppola in court last month was asked about his conversations with Milligan, before the lawsuit was filed.

“The basic sentiment was ‘it’ll be a war if you end up filing any litigation against me, I’ll embarrass city officials in the press and it will be an all-out war, there won’t be an opportunity to work with me once litigation is filed,’” Coppola said as part of that testimony. “I know he expressed that sentiment to me multiple times. After he closed on the property, prior to the lawsuit.”

NancyOnNorwalk asked Milligan if this is a stunt.

“The pattern here is routine city screw ups and me not backing down to the law department typical thuggery,” Milligan wrote late Monday. “Note that I wrote a nice email to Kathryn who I like and respect.  One month later nothing.”

“A proper response a month ago would have been in order, and then this would probably not (have) gone to the press. There is a thing called personal responsibility that is sorely lacking at City Hall, which unfortunately starts at the top. The city is illegally using my property without my permission. Quite a stunt…did I install the traffic box or did I just point out their big mistake?”

8 comments

Jason Milligan April 10, 2019 at 6:46 am

If the city had the right to have the traffic box on my property it would be very easy to prove. There is a map included with the easement. No box!

No mention of the box. The easement is for pedestrian access to get to the former public parking lot that was swallowed by POKO.

Grant writer Morgan, have you ever been to the Wall St Neighborhood. I thought you commute directly to East Ave. Write a few grants and then hop back on I95 back to the Valley.

Norwalk’s law department is very good at creating unecessary legal battles and at escalating them. Spending ever more tax payer money.

Rem April 10, 2019 at 9:36 am

Typically utility boxes such as these are located within the “amenity strip” of a street, that part from the road curb to the first several feet of the sidewalk. This is done to make it easier to maintain (from the street, like when they close a lane of traffic) and to put it out of the way of pedestrians. Remember there are the visually impaired who would find the current location of this utility box a safety hazard. This is standard procedure for thousands of municipalities throughout the world. The only places I’ve seen similar arrangements like what Norwalk has done is in the developing world.

I’d like to remind the City of Norwalk that their best interests lie in the whole community, visually and not visually impaired. The cost to move that box will be less than following through this “my way or the highway” approach to lawsuits, however frivolous or not.

Jason Milligan April 10, 2019 at 9:51 am

Let us remember that Darren was the same dude that bum rushed the building department and tried to void a valid demo permit after only days on the job.

He is the guy that contradicted Tim Sheehan’s sworn testimony about the 2004 plan being expired. Tim said it is expired and a day later Darren filed an objection claiming it is not expired.

Now he is penning snarky legal letters. He provides no back up to his incorrect assertions.

It is hard to believe that Darren has gone rogue. It seems more likely that his buddy and boss is calling the shots…

Legal Eagle April 10, 2019 at 10:53 am

This is a bad case for Milligan to be bothering with. Between a prescriptive easement and the following language in the recorded easement, Fay/Milligan are wasting their time. And not looking good doing so.

3. That the grantee may erect signs, lightpoles, canopies and/or any or all other appurtences which it seems necessary or advisable to further the use of said right of way by pedestrians or to make safe or more convenient the use of said right of way by pedestrians.

A traffic light and its controls are a bullseye into the heart of that paragraph.

Jason Milligan April 10, 2019 at 11:23 am

Legal Eagle,

One would have assumed a thoughtful discussion would have ensued after my notice 1 month ago.

It did not.

An easement by prescription requires uninterrupted, open and notorious use. This traffic box was just replaced this year. Oops.

This traffic box is the brain and mechanical componemts that runs the traffic lights on Wall st. It hardly makes pedestrian travel down a now dead end alley more safe or convenient.

There is an easy way and a hard way to resolve property disputes. The city of Norwalk can teach a graduate school course on the hard way to do things.

Legal Eagle April 10, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Replacement does not constitute an interruption relative to a prescriptive easement. First year law school. And a traffic light to systematize automobile movements, thus allowing safer pedestrian movements to and from the alley most certainly is a bullseye in #3 above. A contrary position/argument, in front of a judge, would without a doubt result in a verbal admonishment.

But, you call it a dead end now. If I understand correctly from Google maps, you now control the City’s former parking lot on Isaac’s Street. On the map, it looks like this alley leads right from Wall Street to this lot. One would think you would be benefitting from this “dead end alley”.

And really, does this control box actually effect you or your property in any way whatsoever? It hasn’t bothered/effected anyone for 40 years so what gives suddenly? Or is this just a puerile stunt because you and the City seem to have issues with each other??

Jason Milligan April 10, 2019 at 1:26 pm

Legal Eagle,

We shall see. The City has not argued any of your positions.

I do not own the former parking lot that abutts the end of the alley. I own a different parking lot that is open and beautiful and available to park (for a fee).

I acquired the FC Bank buildings which includes 1/2 of the alley in December, and fairly immediatley asserted my rights.

DPW clearly has an easement. That easement gives pedestrian access to what was a wonderful public parking lot. The easement gives DPW the right to make pedestrian access safe.

They do not have the right to install or have a traffic box on my property.

If they would like that right then they should ask nicely or negotiate for that right.

Writing back a letter in the tone that Darren did was bad form and unproductive.

It should be noted that this issue became public only after Darren wrote that nasty letter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>