Shelton recreation building in doubt as alderman reject eminent domain bid

SHELTON — The Board of Aldermen has blocked the administration’s move to use eminent domain to acquire a strip of Canal Street property — forcing the developer to adjust plans for the adjacent parcel.

The aldermen on Thursday voted 5-2 against the proposed city land grab of 125 Canal St., part of the former Chromium Process site, now owned by developer Angelo Malisi.

Board President John Anglace Jr. and fellow board members Eric McPherson, Cris Balamaci, Noreen McGorty and Bernie Simons voted against the plan. Aldermen Anthony Simonetti and David Gidwani voted in favor of the eminent domain.

The property was owned by the city until last year, when Mayor Mark Lauretti said the vacant triangular-shaped, 0.10-acre lot was sold to Malisi for $4,000.

Lauretti said the city is now attempting to reacquire the land, which would then be used by developer John Guedes as part of a planned Canal Street recreational building on the adjacent property at 113 Canal St.

Lauretti said Malisi has been “unresponsive” to the city’s overtures, forcing him to push to use eminent domain.

Lauretti called the aldermen’s denial “very frustrating.” He said the board members who opposed eminent domain for this site “do not see the big picture.”

“We sold this property for $4,000 less than a year ago, and now this decision, on a $4,000 piece of land, could jeopardize a multimillion-dollar project (on the former Chromium Processing site),” Lauretti said. “I’m shocked. The (aldermen’s) decision defies logic.”

Guedes’ proposed development, according to plans submitted to the city’s zoning department, would be a five-story building, with a lap pool and wading pool on the first level and fitness studio space on each of the remaining levels, with 87 parking spaces.

Lauretti said the plans, as presently drawn, call for use of the land at 125 Canal St. for the entrance into the proposed two-level parking lot.

Guedes told Hearst Connecticut Media that when he designed the plan he was not aware the city no longer owned 125 Canal St. But he said this change has not dampened his resolve on the development plan.

“We’re committed,” Guedes said about the Canal Street recreational building plan. “Was this a surprise? Yes. But can we deal with this? Yes. It is now about making modifications to the plans and seeing where it takes us. It’s a matter of just going back to the drawing board.”

After handling its regular agenda items Thursday, the board entered executive session, with one of the items for discussion listed as “Litigation Chromium Process Parcel.”

After returning to public session, corporation counsel Fran Teodosio read a motion stating that the city — “in the best interests of its citizens and for the public good” — would use eminent domain to take the triangular piece of property. The board then voted against it, with no discussion on the matter.

Lauretti could not comment on his next step, saying only that he was “given no direction” by the aldermen.

Anglace declined to comment on the vote.

According to the land records posted on the city website, 125 Canal St. is a vacant, 0.10-acre piece of property. The property — the listed owner of which is 113 Canal LLC with an address of 75 Mulberry Lane in Shelton — is appraised at $6,645, with an assessed value of $4,650.