Downtown developer gets booted in Derby

In July 2004, the Derby, Conn., board of aldermen signed a “preferred developer agreement” with Louis Ceruzzi, who planned to build apartments and commercial space on 14 downtown acres at the intersection of the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers . The terms of the agreement, which said the city would use eminent domain to seize land not sold to Ceruzzi, threatened 18 property owners at the time.

Three and a half years later, the city has dropped Ceruzzi, citing the lack of development and progress in the redevelopment area.

In 2006, the city declared the downtown neighborhood blighted, using a survey in which no “physical condition analysis was completed” of the buildings they wanted to acquire. City officials also helped create blight in the area by allowingproperties owned by the city to deteriorate.

By October 2006, only five property owners, including Carl Yacobacci, owner of Clark Development, a design and building firm, had not succumbed to the threat of eminent domain.

The business owners were supportive of the project but angered by the city’s threat of eminent domain. At the time, Yacobacci said, “The only thing they’ve said about eminent domain is it’s a last resort. However, in their development plan the use of eminent domain is all over it, with how it will be used, how to compensate costs…. So if they’re not going to use it, why do they have it in the redevelopment plan?”

The city is now back to square one, and hopefully the remaining property owners, including the Yacobaccis, will be able to convince the city of the futility of using eminent domain as a means to assure the success of a redevelopment project.