WALLINGFORD — A business on property taken by eminent domain last month as part of the NewHaven-Hartford-Springfield rail project has moved nearby.
The new location of Cerrito’s Auto Sales is 280 N. Colony St., the former home of Super Sales Inc. A large sign in the driveway of its former home, 180 N. Colony St., directs customers to the new location.
It was business as usual for owner Chris Cerrito on Friday. In the new location, Cerrito’s has a showroom, displaying classic automobiles. He declined to comment for this story.
In December, the state acquired 180 N. Colony St. to use as a parking lot for a planned new train station on North Cherry Street.
State law requires the Department of Transportation to give reasonable notification to property owners before acquiring property through eminent domain. The state is required to pay fair market value for the property. Relocation benefits, including the cost of starting a new business, are also provided.
Cerrito publicly fought the state’s attempt to take his land and was supported by several local and state officials, who suggested the state should acquire other vacant property for the parking lot.
During a public information session on the rail expansion plans hosted by the Town Council in May, Cerrito yelled from the back of the council chambers that his property was not for sale.
“What they did to him was unfair,” said state Sen. Len Fasano, a Republican whose 34th Senate District includes Wallingford.
Town Councilor John LeTourneau also supported Cerrito’s attempt to remain at 180 N. Colony St., but was glad Cerrito was able to find a new location so quickly.
“That’s the bright spot,” LeTourneau said. “He moved close by and people will find him.”
LeTourneau understood Cerrito’s reluctance to move and risk losing customers.
“He’s one of the hardest working business people I know so I really do hope it works out well for him,” LeTourneau said.
Cerrito was informed in early 2013 of the state’s intentions to use eminent domain after negotiations failed. The property at 180 N. Colony St. was first identified as a possible train station parking lot at a public meeting in 2011, state officials said.
According to state law, the DOT “can acquire property necessary to construct and maintain commuter parking facilities in the same way as for state highway” and “can take property necessary for the operation or improvement of transportation services ...” And, as necessary, it “can acquire land or rights of entrance and exit from land abutting certain projects regarding structures around tracks in the same way as for state highway purposes.”