NORWALK, Conn. – A pressured East Norwalk senior citizen is now in Italy visiting his grandchildren, as the state’s process to take his home has been put on hold.
Michele (Michael) Napoleone, 83, had thought he couldn’t make his annual trip overseas because the Connecticut Department of Transportation had begun eminent domain proceedings on his home of 47 years, at 220 East Ave. Napoleone, his sons and two friends met with CDOT representatives recently and cleared up that misconception, Diane Cece said. The clock has been stopped on the property acquisition for now, Cece said.
“The advertising date for project is not until 2016, not 2014,” Cece said in an email. “But that doesn’t mean that he can stay there until then. In fact, proceedings for him to leave would commence following either acceptance of an offer or by taking under eminent domain.”
The press was not invited to the meeting. A CDOT representative confirmed Cece’s account.
The state is working to take three homes just north of the railroad tracks on East Avenue as part of the East Avenue widening project. The properties would be used as staging for construction equipment used to rebuild the Metro North bridge and then turned into a parking lot for the expanded train station.
The offer for Napoleone’s home of some 47 years is described as an “insult” by Cece, a longtime friend of the family. It’s “below even the market and assessed values on which the city of Norwalk assesses him for property taxes,” she said in an email.
“We have made offers to the three property owners,” CDOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said in an email. “As long as negotiations are ongoing (and in this case they are for all three properties), and to protect the negotiation process, we cannot disclose the figures. Also, as you likely know, we are required by law to obtain objective, fair market values on any properties we would need to acquire for transportation purposes. The law is clear and unambiguous in this regard. The numbers we would offer for any property required for transportation purposes would be based on fair market value.”
Cece said the CDOT representatives had been told that Napoleone is not a “willing seller” and that family is awaiting a Limited Scope Engagement Agreement from “a very large, reputable Hartford law firm” and may engage them for the purposes of negotiation.
With the clock stopped, the Napoleone family has the breathing room it needs to gather data needed to negotiate “some where down the road,” Cece said.
The Napoleone family met with CDOT Division of Right of Way officials James I. Mason and Thomas H. Melzen, Cece said. They told Napoleone that he could go to Italy, even if he wanted to stay for four weeks.
“Thomas Melzen disputes that he said anything to the contrary, though he admits he told (Napoleone) that, if Mike left, the condemnation steps would proceed regardless,” Cece said.
Napoleone will be in Italy for about another two weeks, Cece said. She plans to meet with his sons Monday night to “discuss how they’d like to proceed when Mike gets home, and what stuff needs to be done in the meantime.”
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