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Newington Mechanic Calls Busway Property Acquisition Unacceptable

by Hugh McQuaid | Jun 21, 2012 2:30pm
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Transportation, Newington

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Mike Camillo

(Updated 3:02 p.m.) The owner of an auto repair shop in Newington said Thursday he will chain himself to his equipment before he allows the state to seize part of his family’s property in order to complete the New Britain-to-Hartford busway.

Mike Camillo, owner of West Hill Automotive, told reporters the state is using eminent domain to take part of the property upon which his business is located, and offering him far less than the land is worth. As a result, he said he will be forced to lay off three of his 10 employees.

“The price is unacceptable, what they’re offering us. It’s probably the most profitable part of our property. It’s a storage lot,” Camillo said. “Our business has shrunk in size because we’ve had to move equipment. Now we’re going to have to lay people off.”

The state broke ground on the 9.4 mile dedicated bus route last month and construction crews were working on property adjacent to Camillo’s auto shop. Despite the construction nearing his property, Camillo said he has resisted the Department of Transportation’s instructions to move equipment from the portion of his property the state wishes to take.

“They’ve told us to move. We’re not moving. This will be a fight. They come and move my equipment, I’ll be chained to it,” he said.

Part of Camillo’s problem is the state is not looking to take the entire property, which would allow him to relocate. Instead, it’s taking part of the land — the part that currently houses his storage lot — and leaving the rest. Camillo said he’s been offered $140,000 in exchange for the property.

“The property generates $210,000, just that corner, every year. In five years that’s a million dollars,” he said.

While Camillo contends he’s getting a raw deal from the state, Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, said they don’t have much leeway in what they offer folks for property acquisitions. The state is more or less constrained to a fair market value appraisal, which in this case happens to be $140,000.

“We don’t have the ability to flex much above or below that,” Nursick said. “We can’t low-ball people for their property to try and save the taxpayers money and we can’t high-ball these issues to make them go away. Because either way, someone gets cheated.”

That means the state can’t offer to take the entire property rather than just the one-ninth of an acre where Camillo’s storage is located.

Although property acquisitions aren’t always ideal — Nursick estimates about 10 percent of them are outside what the department considers a “friendly” acquisition — he said none of the state’s highways would be possible without them.

“When those were built you can bet there were property acquisitions,” he said. “We would have no transportation infrastructure if it weren’t for this process.”

Nursick said that in Camillo’s case the state offered the fair market value and received no counter offer. The issue will likely need to be resolved by a judge, he said.

But Camillo is hoping some coverage by news media will get state officials to back off their plans. He held a press conference at the auto shop with Republican Sen. Joseph Markley and Reps. Rob Sampson and Whit Betts, all of whom are opposed to the busway project. The lawmakers decried it as a waste of taxpayer dollars that was now threatening one of the state’s small businesses.

“Our governor says we’re open for business but we’ve got small businesses right here in our community that are existing and flourishing being negatively impacted by this project. I think it’s time to reconsider it and move on,” Sampson said.

Camillo, who hopes there is still time to stop the construction that is already under way, also blames Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for kick-starting a project that’s been on the state’s to do list for decades.

In a statement, Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said that it is inaccurate to suggest that Malloy’s support for the busway detracts from his commitment to job creation.

“While we are certainly sensitive to the needs of any business that is facing adversity, the fact is that most of the Greater Hartford business community is behind this project,” Redeker said. “The construction of CTfastrak is going to create thousands of good-paying construction jobs and will provide some relief to the congestion along I-84.

“This innovative project will provide the backbone and impetus for new economic growth in the region, while at the same time, finally offering a solution to debilitating congestion on I-84,” Redeker said.

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(10) Comments

posted by: JAM | June 21, 2012  3:24pm

So the State is taking a portion of his property without any consideration as to how that impacts his entire operation. He can’t move because there isn’t enough money to finace a new purchase.
Seems the fair sloution is to have the State buy 100% of the property, and then they can deal with selling off the excess.
Meanwhile he can take the proceeds, and invest in a new location.

posted by: wmwallace | June 21, 2012  5:43pm

Typical that the government takes just enough to hurt his business without proper payment for the land.

A project that makes less sense by the day.

posted by: Reasonable | June 21, 2012  7:48pm

The busway is another bad move by Gov. Malloy. It is already a detriment to business—and Malloy is doing nothing for job creation—by wasting taxpayer money BIG TIME.

posted by: Alex from Nevis | June 22, 2012  6:44am

STIMULUS spending at its best: Pick-a-lame-project make-work for unions on the back of the taxpayer so those guys will buy another quart of oil from the Harley dealer, another case of beer (on Sunday!) from the packy, etc. and “stimulate” the economy.

Meanwhile the state is robbing productive economic actors through confiscatory taxation or, in the case of Mike Camillo, taking his property without just compensation.

Government action doesn’t “create” long-term economic growth, but pols would rather take credit for “creating” 100 jobs than reduce economic burdens on private citizens and let them create 100,000.

posted by: sightover | June 22, 2012  9:48am

The Peoples Republic of CT loves eminent domain, especially when the public benefit never materializes. New London anyone? I hope the busway has better ridership than Hartford’s STAR SHUTTLE. 

We should build wider highways leading out of CT to facilitate the flow of young people and businesses who are voting with their feet.

posted by: Reasonable | June 22, 2012  10:49am

sightover:  You hit the “the nailon the head!” Big city state SOCIAL BENEFITS RESIDENTS will continue to VOTE WITH THEIR FEET, as long as their feet will take them to stand in long welfare benefits lines, for more freebies, to lead them to vote for incompetent public servants like Gov. Dannel P. Malloy—and the Democrat controlled Connecticut General Assembly, who stay in ofice by virtue of Connecticut being one of the best welfare states in the nation. Like Pres. Barack Obama—Gov. Malloy is a socialist leader who keeps taxpayers broke.

posted by: Santa | June 22, 2012  5:19pm

This whole thing is a joke.  It would make more sense to fix up the rails and run trains!  This guy is 110% right.

posted by: ... | June 23, 2012  1:07am

...

You’re half-right sightover. We do need wider, renovated highways. That’s why the Aetna viaduct is going to need a serious rehaul in a decade or so (it’s been a quiet story you won’t hear, but its in discussion as we speak). Infrastructure issues are a given, but it needs widening and revisions to it to be a viable artery in this state.

And when that happens, guess what happens to I-84 through Hartford? It’s gonna get backed up like never before for months, years even as they fix it. And oddly enough, a lot of people in Southern CT come up to Hartford for work. Think they’re gonna wanna sit in gridlock traffic, wasting their gas, their time, and their sanity going 10mph on that? I doubt it. Especially when they look to their right and see a dedicated route that can bring them right into the city without hitting ground zero. Good for Hartford businesses too.

I didn’t like the busway/CTFastTrack at first. The money being put in by the state (which is a much smaller chunk than the federal grant) would be a better use still in my mind to reducing the deficit. But understanding long-term mass-transit issues like this put a new light on the project. Similar to what was needed with the Q-bridge (http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-green-new-haven-q-bridge-20120421,0,6916987.column ).

posted by: ... | June 23, 2012  1:14am

...

By the way, Q-bridge job is 2 billion bucks (of which we’re paying 260 million for), and yet I’ve not heard a peep about this being ‘typical’ stimulus spending, or whatever rhetoric you need to use to try and prop up what is already a too little too late strategy to ‘end’ the busways’s existence.

posted by: Victoria1555 | July 8, 2012  1:18pm

We only need this type of insane busway if we continue down the road to Socialist/Communist idiocy that exist now.  CT is in great distress right now…VOTE THEM ALL OUT…clean out this roach infested government to save CT.  smile