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October 31, 2022

East Hartford redevelopment agency OKs forced sale of blighted Silver Lane strip mall

Courtesy of Journal Inquirer

East Hartford's Redevelopment Agency voted unanimously Thursday night to recommend the Town Council acquire two derelict Silver Lane properties by eminent domain.

The parcels, 794-810 Silver Lane and 818-850 Silver Lane, are part of the Silver Lane Plaza, a shopping center with a long history of blight and deteriorating conditions.

Town officials have expressed interest in acquiring Silver Lane Plaza, both through good-faith negotiation and by eminent domain, as a part of efforts to revitalize the Silver Lane corridor.

Town officials have said negotiations with the current owners, East Hartford Venture LLC, have not produced an agreement.

Director of Development Eileen Buckheit said the town must make certain findings in order for the Redevelopment Agency to recommend eminent domain acquisition.

Evidence must be provided that the benefits of town acquisition would outweigh any benefits to a private entity, the current use of the property cannot be integrated into a redevelopment plan, and acquisition is reasonably necessary to achieve the objectives of redevelopment.

The town must also express plans to convert the property into a public use and provide the current owner fair compensation.

A redevelopment plan approved by the Town Council on Aug. 2 puts the appraised value of the plaza at roughly $2.4 million.

Buckheit said now that the findings were made and the Redevelopment Agency has recommended the acquisition, the Town Council is set to discuss the matter at its meeting Tuesday night.

Buckheit said if the Town Council approves the acquisition, the town must go through a legal process before the acquisition is completed.

Stakeholders, including public officials and individuals connected to the plaza, discussed the use of eminent domain during a public hearing at the Redevelopment Agency’s meeting Thursday night.

A total of 21 individuals spoke during the public hearing, many of whom were residents voicing support for eminent domain acquisition or expressing concerns with the poor condition of the plaza.

Elected and appointed officials also expressed support for eminent domain acquisition, including Rep. Henry Genga, D-East Hartford, Mayor Mike Walsh, Town Council Chairman Richard Kehoe, and Timothy D. Larson, former mayor and state senator, who is now the director of the state Office of Higher Education.

Walsh said the town would provide assistance to retail store tenants in the plaza if it were ultimately acquired.

Steve Tessier, property manager of Silver Lane Plaza, said the town has not had sufficient discourse with the property owners, who hoped to retain all or part of the property as part of a deal with the town.

Tessier said property owners spent time and money to remediate contaminated soil on the property from a dry cleaner and had planned a grocery store tenant, but he said the town was unwilling to financially support the necessary renovations.

Tien Nguyen of Pho House, a restaurant in Silver Lane Plaza, said she does not support the use of eminent domain. She said she would like more details on how current tenants would be assisted if they need to move out of the plaza.

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