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Milligan seeks to block Council vote on revised ‘POKO’ plan

The partially completed Wall Street Place development, referred colloquially to as “POKO,” as seen from the former Leonard Street municipal parking lot, now owned by real estate broker Jason Milligan. Milligan’s purchase of the lot inspired the City and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency to sue him and former owner Richard Olson of POKO Partners, charging that the sale violated the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for the property. The plaintiffs seek to reverse the sale.

Updated, 2:20 p.m.: Comments from Mario Coppola and Jason Milligan, story edited.

NORWALK, Conn. — A Superior Court judge has been asked to stop the Norwalk Common Council from voting Tuesday to clear the way for the revised “POKO” development.

Real estate broker Jason Milligan is seeking an emergency injunction to prevent the changes to the Land Disposition Agreement needed by JHM group to move forward with its revised plan for the mixed use development on the corner of Wall and Issacs Streets, formally called Wall Street Place. The City argues that Milligan does not have legal “standing” to request such an injunction because he is not party to the LDA, and states that his action is premature. Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola charged that Milligan is trying to force the City to include him in the deal, so he can make a profit.

Milligan has filed for the injunction under the auspices of the lawsuit filed against him by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the City, accusing him of unfair trade practices in his purchase of property governed by that LDA, lots that were slated to become part of Wall Street Place phases II and III.

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, ahead of the Council meeting where the revised plan will be considered. The City has asked Judge Charles Lee to dismiss Milligan’s motion for an emergency injunction.

 

‘It’s a lie’

Milligan, in the court filing, claims that the City would be attempting to make him accountable to a modified LDA should the Council vote to greenlight the requested changes. He also reasserts that the LDA is invalid as the 2004 redevelopment plan it was based upon has expired. Since he has asked the Court to rule on that accusation, he asks that the Court prevent the LDA from being amended and undermining his claim, saying that “the proverbial horse will have left the barn.”

“The City and RDA are trying to ram an amendment down the throats of Norwalk citizens in the middle of a pandemic in the middle of the summer,” Attorney David Rubin, representing Milligan, said in an email.

Coppola called that a “bold-faced lie.”

The revised proposal, developed during a year’s worth of off-the-public’s-radar-screen talks, was made public on June 25 when the agenda for the July 2 Council Planning Committee meeting went online. The Committee approved the proposal and the full Council is set to consider it Tuesday, and possibly vote on it. The meeting will be held online only, with the public will be able to speak through the Zoom platform.

“Attorney Rubin totally mischaracterized the Council’s handling of the pending proposal to amend the Land Disposition Agreement (‘LDA’) and Loan Recognition Agreement (‘LRA’) associated with the Wall Street Place Project,” Coppola wrote. “This proposal has been pending before the Common Council for more than one year.  During that time, the Common Council has reviewed countless documents and conducted numerous public meetings to discuss the proposal at length.  It is a bold face lie for Attorney Rubin to state that ‘the City and RDA are trying to ram an amendment down the throats of Norwalk citizens in the middle of a pandemic in the middle of the summer’ when this proposal has been literally pending before the Common Council for many months before the Covid-19 pandemic started.”

 

‘A mess’

Rubin explained his client’s position thusly:

“Any vote by the Common Council to amend the LDA comes with great risk. There is a Motion for Summary Judgment and Counterclaims before the Court that the 2004 Redevelopment Plan expired in 2018 and was replaced by the 2019 Redevelopment Plan, and that the LDA is therefore unenforceable. If that is the case, any amendment would be invalid as a matter of law. We are asking the Court to delay a vote or the execution of any amendment until those pending issues are determined by the Judge.

“Also, the LDA clearly states that all parties must agree in writing to any amendment. That is being circumvented here. Rather, the City and RDA are entering into an amendment without the approval of all signatories, and they further are adding the signatures of Municipal Holdings and JHM, neither of which signed the original LDA.

“Its a mess. If the City and RDA want to do this deal relative to Phase I, they should just enter into a new agreement with JHM and Municipal Holdings to do the deal. They are trying to have their cake and eat it to by materially amending Phase I and maintaining their claims against Jason and ILSR relative to Phases II and III.”

 

“Our Mayor and his team are quite possibly the worst negotiators on the planet. They give away the store if you dazzle them with enough fancy attorneys and consultants. After going underground for a year they are trying to jam this awful project through,” Milligan said.

 

‘No valid grounds’

Milligan’s request for an injunction “makes a mockery” of the legal concepts at play, Attorney Joseph Williams, representing the Redevelopment Agency, wrote in a legal brief filed Friday. “Our Supreme Court has recognized that courts may interfere with ballot initiatives ‘if the proposed legislation clearly exceeds the legislative power of the electorate’…but the Milligan Defendants have not come close to meeting such a standard.”

“There are no valid grounds for the emergency injunction that the Milligan defendants recently filed which seeks to bar the Common Council from voting on the proposed amendments to the LDA and LRA, which have been pending before the Common Council for more than one year,” Coppola wrote. “The bottom line is that Mr. Milligan is simply trying to prevent the building at the Phase I Wall Street Place project from getting completed to avoid losing his leverage to sell the Phase II parking lot that he improperly purchased without the Redevelopment Agency’s consent.  The other properties in the Wall Street area will be greatly benefited when the buildings at the Phase I project get completed.  Mr. Milligan will do whatever he can to try to delay the buildings from getting completed unless and until the parties are willing to include him in a deal where he will profit.”

Milligan recently offered Citibank $5.5 million for Phase I. On Friday, he said that’s a legitimate offer.

“I stand by it but I do not expect Citibank to respond,” he wrote. “I made that offer because Citibank made the claim in their proposal that $5.5 million was the very best that they could hope for if the current proposal were to be approved and built. If $5.5 million is the best-case scenario after years of approvals and construction and litigation then surely Citibank would take $5.5 million now to avoid the years of hassle.”

It would cost $500,000 to demolish the “Tyvek Temple,” he said. Demolishing just the unused concrete deck that closes off the alley way would be $200,000.

NancyOnNorwalk asked why he hadn’t spent the last year seeking public support for alternatives to completing the project.

“I had been quiet publicly out of respect to the people that work in Norwalk government that I like and respect. There are many. I have tried to let some of those people work through the cumbersome, outdated and inefficient process,” he wrote.

NancyOnNorwalk asked why stakeholders should believe his motives are based on a desire to help the Wall Street area, that he’s not just looking to get out from under a lawsuit and make a profit.

“All that you need to do is open your eyes as you drive or walk through the Wall Street and Isaacs Street area. There is no doubt that I care about Wall Street. I have invested my entire life and livelihood into the area and I am doubling and tripling down,” he replied. “I have barely gotten started on my efforts to help improve the area. Buckle up.”

POKO ILSR 20-0709 application for temporary injunction

POKO ILSR 20-0710 motion to dismiss application for temporary injunction

13 comments

Jason Milligan July 11, 2020 at 8:59 am

If you want a new plan then let the old one go!

That means you have to drop the frivolous lawsuit against me,

Choices…

Have cake?

Eat cake?

Trying to have both just wastes lots of taxpayer money.

Jason Milligan July 11, 2020 at 6:12 pm

I have said from the beginning and I stand by it today.

If the plan and LDA are valid then I agree that I am bound to follow it as a successor in interest.

POKO is a phased project. My obligations begin once phase 1 gets issued a certificate of completion.

If phase 1 gets built as designed and approved then I agree to build phase II as required.

If a new plan and a new project gets approved then the old one must end. Period

John ONeill July 11, 2020 at 9:02 pm

It would be nice if this was cleaned up once and for all. My life span should last another 30 years. Let’s hope the newspaper that covers my obituary won’t have a headline dealing with POKO! Holy cow!!
Today’s American hero inspiration came to me as the crazies would like to boycott Goya. Absurd! !
Anyway, I’m going with another union guy today which should be appreciated by our local state officials who seem to be contolled by union lobbyists. As a Catholic, I am proud to announce today’s Great American Hero is Cesar Chavez. His discipline and FAITH were second to none. Thank you Cesar! Although Goya founders were from Spain (and not Mexico) they’re activism in the Latino community would be deeply appreciated by Cesar Chavez. #BuyGoya

News Robot July 12, 2020 at 11:00 am

7/12/2051
Daily Obit:

Today’s Great American hero is John ONeill. Despite John’s countless warnings about ELL funding, elected officials have still never raised the issue with Hartford.

John’s prediction about East Norwalk earned him the legendary nickname: Nostradamus 2.0, as high density planning has in fact converted what was once a quaint East Norwalk into a less desirable, complete identical reflection of the Cove section of Stamford.

John’s is survived by his beloved City of Norwalk (pop 170k), which recently declared bankruptcy from ELL programs.

Yet on this sad day, local news overshadows a community in mourning:

POKO talks set to resume in the 2nd half of the century

Walk bridge nears completion in 2052

Norwalk expects 1st Hartford commitment for new school

Mayor’s re-election a slam dunk, next term will be working remotely via AI

Casinos battle UCONN over rights for defunct mall

Spinnaker complex at oyster shell park mirrors Stamford’s Harbor Point

In sports:
The Mets lose again

Norwalk Since 1988 July 12, 2020 at 5:29 pm

@ John O’ Neill, you sure have a ton of extra down time in your day because you comment on just about everything and you basically say the same thing(s) over and over. You continuously go off on tangents when it comes to ELL students and funding, or a lack of it. Do you know educational law? Do you know requirements and expectations for ELL students? Do you understand how ELL testing goes? DO you understand anything about it or do you just start off every comment by spewing negativity surrounding anything that NPS suggests or does. Possibly the scariest part of it all is that you clearly do not do any research yourself because if you did you would know that 98.7% of school districts with ELL students and programs are struggling, have been struggling, and will continue to struggle. I’m sorry, that is not the scariest part of it all, the fact that you don’t do anything to help this demographic of students other then comment on a blog. Get involved if you feel so passionate about it. You don’t think NPS is trying hard enough or doing enough, then run for BOE, get involved with groups in the community that assist this demographic group. Just do something positive because everything you do is complain and sorry, but you don’t have much of a clue about what you are even saying. At least pick a topic you have some sort of clue about.

John ONeill July 13, 2020 at 1:51 pm

@Norwalk Since 1988. FIRST, thank you for the constuctive criticism. I strive everyday to be a better and more informed person. I believe many non-posters feel the same as I do. If you think Norwalk gets its fair share from Hartford on funding, I have a bridge to sell in Wyoming. As far as spewing negativity, all I ask is for our schools to get back to basics. Sometimes people over think the problem. Wouldn’t you agree? Bottom line our city leaders have not acknowledged we have certain issues and need outside help. If you don’t think so, I respect your opinion. Although I and many others disagree. Again thanks for the advice as its always good to get feedback from those with all the answers.

John ONeill July 13, 2020 at 5:17 pm

@LongtimeDem — Very funny. I enjoyed that. On a more serious note, there are many other towns/cities winning the money distribution game out of Hartford. And, I’m not talking about Bridgeport, Hartford or New Haven. Why on earth would wealthy towns like West Hartford get twice what Norwalk receives in education funding..There are many other examples which I can name but there’s not enough space to detail. Norwalkers pay some of the highest taxes in the country and we are not getting our money’s worth.

Ron Morris July 13, 2020 at 6:06 pm

This is not art. It looks like a ghetto and should not be allowed. Buildings with graffiti on them along with the roofs. A complete disgrace.

Bryan Meek July 13, 2020 at 8:24 pm

Whatever you think about Milligan, during the lockdown he painted murals to spice up the place while our city government was having us use overflowing portolets well into phase two of the reopening because they care so much about public health. Phase 3 is supposed to be a week from now and we still don’t have any indication when the city services we pay for and an open city hall are coming back on line while surrounding towns have all gone back to work. Why?

JustATaxpayer July 13, 2020 at 11:22 pm

@John ONeill

You are my favorite poster on here. I will say, News Robot posts one of the funiest retorts to date. I would add that Norwalk will probably change it’s name to whatever it is today to something different. It could be “Norwalk, American’s leading City for haircuts”. Fat Cat should be a 20 seat socially distant hair salon. Peaches, multi level of hair cutters.

Let’s just hope that long hairstyles for 90% of the Norwalk population (which will be hispanic) don’t come into vogue. Lastly, Harry Rilling wasn’t woke enough – he never defunded the police. Shame on him

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