Council declines to buy Milligan’s 1.27 acres next to library

The Norwalk Public Library, as seen from Belden Avenue.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Common Council has voted not to exercise its option to buy Jason Milligan’s 1.27 acre-property at 11 Belden Ave., next to the Norwalk Public Library.

The chaotic vote at Tuesday’s Council meeting was 10-2, with John Kydes (D-District C) and Bryan Meek (R-District D) voting in favor of buying the property.

In 2017, the City paid Milligan $460,000 for a six-year purchase option for his property, where he had planned to build apartments. The deal included a fixed purchase price of $4,885,000 for the parcel, which was intended to provide room for a possible Norwalk Public Library expansion and parking for patrons.

The Council needed to let Milligan know by June 30 if it intended to exercise the option.

Connected to the issue is the City’s plan to buy 3 Belden Ave. from the First Taxing District for $1.4 million. That should come to the Council in late June.

Three citizens spoke in favor of buying Milligan’s parcel at the price negotiated in 2017.

“Both the 3 Belden property and the parking lot portion of 11 Belden are essential to accomplish the twin goals of parking and expansion. Acquiring just 3 Beldon is not a long-term parking solution as that property will be needed to expand the library,” Betty Bono said.

“We know full well that should the option lapse it will effectively kill any meaningful future expansion for the library and will exacerbate the problematic issues of access for the elderly, for the handicapped, and parents with young children,” Eric Chandler said.

Diane Lauricella noted that the City could buy just the part of the property that library patrons use for parking now, but said that if the City bought the entire thing its value would escalate because “we are doing a great job getting Wall Street off the ground.”

Council members offered no thoughts on the issue but it took nearly 10 minutes to agree on a motion for them to vote upon. Ed Camacho (D-At Large) volunteered wording but shortly entered a back and forth with Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola over the correct language.

Camacho, who was recently appointed to fill a vacant seat, noted “ongoing discussions that we’ve had” and made a motion to vote no, prompting Coppola to clarify that the motion had to be to exercise the option. Eventually, Rilling said, “Oh my goodness… Could you make it any more confusing?” He later added, “This is embarrassing.”

An email sent to all Council members afterwards, asking for the reasons for their votes, drew two responses.

“Just seeing if 6 years of city inaction would get someone to notice and ask questions,” Meek wrote. “We’ve spent more $ on lawsuits citywide over the last few years than this lot would have cost to buy this lot, so it isn’t trivial.  It’s more curious to me that a reserve fund wasn’t set up 6 years ago to mitigate this and we are just voting on it at the midnight hour.  We can’t let this happen again should we enter any similar multi-year purchase options.  My vote to purchase is based on our losing legal history and the necessity for the library to expand and provide the services we are paying them to provide.”

“I had several phone calls yesterday from people on both sides of the vote,” Heidi Alterman (D-District D) said Wednesday. “I was uncomfortable voting yes with so many variables that I did not fully trust the city would handle well. Honestly, I was more concerned that this purchase would not be related to the library and some future housing expansion.”

On Wednesday, Milligan wrote, “I am actually quite satisfied that the city has chosen not to buy my property. It is now worth considerably more now than the price I agreed to 6 years ago. Also the City should not be in the real estate business unless they have a specific use for a building or property. I am a huge fan of the Norwalk Library and I very much hope that it will undergo renovation and or expansion in the near future.”

Information added, 1:19 p.m., 7:20 p.m. Wednesday.


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3 responses to “Council declines to buy Milligan’s 1.27 acres next to library”

  1. Are government gets less competent by the day. This is really a no-brainer purchase. And by avoiding it I think it’s actively bad for our community. If I was Jason, I would build a community center of some type over there nonprofit and just milk the deductions. It’s. A travesty that the town didn’t put this together. It was the beneficial for everybody. And unfortunately, our current leaders want housing for illegal immigrants on a multi decade plan, because we all know that the low income stuff they’re building doesn’t qualify for federal assistance on section 8, if you don’t believe me look at Sono

  2. Drew Todd

    You really can’t teach the CC how to be this brainless can you?!?! Sad!!! Just Sad!

  3. Jo-Anne Horvath

    It is really short- sighted to NOT buy the property at 11 Belden Avenue from Jason Milligan for library parking.
    I can’t believe the majority of our Common Council people don’t have a clue about what’s best for the Norwalk Library. In the past, parking at the library had always been a BIG problem that many patrons decided not visit the library because of a lack of parking. Now is our chance to truly remedy this situation at a fair price.
    I see our City Council has “found the money” to enhance the landscaping at Calf Pasture Beach, has planted shrubs at West Rocks Middle school, put in an artificial turf soccer field on Aiken Street, but has no money for the Norwalk Library!
    Mr. Milligan has, in my opinion, “bent over backwards” to try to remedy this parking issue for the long-term.
    Let’s not let politics get in the way of doing what is right for our Library.
    I also agree wholeheartedly with Eric Chandler when he said “this will exacerbate the problematic issues of access for the elderly, for the handicapped, and parents with young children.”
    As a person who is handicapped, a few weeks ago I attended a meeting at the Norwalk Library in the evening. I was lucky enough to get the 1 remaining handicapped parking space in order to attend this very important Zoning Meeting.

    Jo-Anne Horvath

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