Norwalk plans to sell land once SoNo school is considered

NORWALK – Despite three years of litigation and thousands of dollars spent settling a property acquisition in South Norwalk, the town may be considering selling the land.

Last week, the Common Council’s Land Use and Building Management Committee discussed whether to begin the process of selling the 0.44 acre plot previously envisioned as the location for a new school in South Norwalk.

The short discussion resulted in the committee’s decision to consider the potential uses of 10 Tito Court before resorting to its sale.

“As the location of the project is not a suitable location for the new school, we want to discuss removing this property and putting it back on the tax roll,” said Buildings and Facilities Manager Alan Lo. . “We don’t think the city has any use for this property. We want to draw attention to the community to see if they want to sell this property.

If the committee decides to proceed with the sale of the property, a public hearing will be held to discuss the abandonment of the land, Lo said. So far, no hearing has been scheduled as committee members take the time to consider alternative uses.

“The initial plan was to build a new Columbus school on the Ely site. The state told us we have to acquire the property before we can approve anything, and that’s not true, ”Lo said. “Either way, the project turned out to be extremely, extremely difficult. The plan to build the school on the grounds of the park was not feasible.

The location of 10 Tito Court once housed a commercial building and church owned by the Cocchia family before Norwalk acquired the land in the fall of 2018 via a prominent estate, allowing the city to requisition the land with the compensated owners at fair market value, based on court documents.

The building on the property still exists and there are no plans to demolish the building, Lo said.

The city paid Cocchia’s estate $ 710,000 for the property, but the family contested the appraisal and demanded an additional $ 365,000, according to a court note 2018. The Cocchia family said the property was worth $ 1,075,000 while the city valued it at $ 710,000.

A settlement was finally reached between the city and the Cocchia family in June.

Now the city is considering what to do with the land, with alternative options including a community garden or selling the land to a nearby church.

“I would say there was an idea for a community garden in this area, or it could be part of the plot that was turned into a park,” said Darlene Young, board member. “I also know that the church and the people nearby are interested in this property. I think this was something that initially concerned them with the purchase and use of this land.

Before the city bought it, the land was controlled by an estate – family members of the original owner who died. By purchasing the land, part of the estate accepted compensation while another disputed the amount, which led to a three-year lawsuit, said Mayor Harry Rilling’s chief of staff Laoise King.

After learning that the plot could not be used for the proposed schools, the city was unable to return the land as it was already paid for and the estate would need to return the funds donated by the city for the property. , which family members refused to do, King said.

For the Cocchia family, learning that the city was considering selling the land was “unbelievable”.

Jeff and Jim Cocchia, former owners of the property, said they were unaware the property could not be used for the proposed school.

“I had no idea they weren’t going to be able to build,” Jeff Cocchia said Monday. “I would never have signed the paper, then I would have sent them all back to court and got my building back.” Then it turns out that they can’t build there at all.

If the building cannot be used by the city, Jeff Cocchia said he would be willing to buy the plot back from the city, adding that he was still affected by the loss of income from tenants who previously occupied the property.

“It was a pretty big amount of money every year – $ 80,000 a year,” he said.

For the Cocchia family, the Tito Court property marks the second time that family-owned land has been taken across a prominent estate for urban use, the first time being for the construction of South Norwalk Station, said the Cocchias.

“I had a little more faith in the city, but they just do things and on the road regardless of the consequences,” said Jim Cocchia.

At this time, no further action is planned for the Tito Court property, while the Common Council considers other options for the space before opening the discussion to the public.

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