City Council’s questions of developer are proper
City Council Chairman Ronald Quagliani (D-at-large) has invited the Haven Development Company representatives to the Sept. 28 meeting of the legislative body to give an update on plans for the upscale retail plan. First announced in October of 2014, the three-block area making up the project’s footprint has been fenced, but not much else has taken place.
The city closed off Water Street to traffic in late April with the expectation that demolition of the hundreds of former dwellings would begin. Instead, we are nearly five months out and the latest delay was a sign-off by the fire marshal. That has been done, cut as of press time no actual work has begun.
The Voice questioned the timetable of the project four weeks ago, and is still wondering when the long-awaited project will begin. The closure of Water Street has exacerbated traffic flow problems from I-95 into West Haven, making rush hour a nightmare. It would be easier to accept if we saw some actual work taking place.
Quagliani seems to have his own questions as do some members of the council. Several questions remain unanswered as to the project developer’s plans, and the chairman is using his only leverage – the final abandonment of the street – to get them. He is threatening to stall the final vote if answers are not forthcoming.
Among the questions he has concern environmental precautions and remedies. The Water Street area has been a manufacturing district as well as a place where oil tanks once stored product for distribution. He would like answers as to what protocols will be in place.
Similarly, the chairman is asking for a timeline in demolition, leasing of space and completion expectations as well as any new or existing communications from the State of Connecticut and reconstruction of Elm Street once the project is completed. These seem to us to be not only reasonable requests, but important to the neighborhood around the project.
Chairman Quagliani is well aware as is the rest of the council that the Haven Project’s snail’s pace has adversely affected the neighborhood, and that adversity is far beyond property values. Squatters have resided in the decaying buildings, vermin has overrun the area, and fires have erupted sporadically over the last two-plus years.
The Haven Development Company over its tenure has been reticent to say much about the project over the last six years. Instead, its parcels out bits of information as it sees fit. We understand it does not want to give false hope, but city taxpayers have the right to know how things are progressing – or not progressing. Eminent Domain was used – abusively we believe – to gain the properties. That means the project is in the public interest. We want answers. We deserve answers.
Much remains questionable about the project, and we are hoping the new impetus by the City Council chairman will give us the answers needed. A year ago we heard that Christmas 2022 was going to be the date to celebrate. The hopes created by that announcement are fading.
The September 28 meeting is an important one in the history of the Haven project. It should give us some insights as to the progress made by the developers and a timeline of the progress expected over the next several months and years.