The Town Council has cleared the way for the demolition of the Foundry property on the Connecticut River and the development of a mixed-use project on the site that would include retail and residential space, as well as a public park.
At its the council authorized the town manager to sign an agreement with the developer, Riverfront Future Partners, that would allow the project to move forward.
Councilor Larry deBear was the only member who voted against the agreement.
In 2009, the town filed a lawsuit to take the Foundry, where gray iron castings were made, from its owner by eminent domain. The developer responded by filing an injunction against the town. Once the agreement is signed, those two lawsuits would immediately be withdrawn, Town Attorney Morris Borea said.
“There is a provision in the contract, which provides for the town to be under the gun of a lawsuit even after this contract is signed,” deBear said. “I don’t like it. I think it places the town in a vulnerable position,” deBear said. “I realize there are many positive points in the contract. I realize approval of the contract sets in motion the removal of an eyesore.”
A third lawsuit, which was brought by the developer against the town, would be stayed under the agreement the town would sign with the developer, Borea said. The lawsuit would be dropped once the Planning and Zoning Commission, Inland Wetlands Commission, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers have acted on the plans, deBear said.
The developer has submitted a conceptual plan that includes a public park and parking, a retail component, a commercial area and residential units, as well as a river walk and a marina. The project must have public access, a public park, the river walk and some retail, Borea said.
The maximum size of the proposal is four buildings with a footprint no larger than 16,000 square feet. However, Mayor Anthony LaRosa said the project is expected to be “downsized a little bit” and the planning and zoning and inland wetlands commissions could shrink it if they deem it necessary.
The conceptual drawing has not been engineered yet because it would cost between $300,000 to $400,000 to do so, LaRosa said. The developer wanted approval before having the plans engineered, Larosa added.
The developer is expected to spend over $3 million on the project, Borea said.
“There would be substantial tax revenue generated once this project is developed as the conceptual plan shows,” Borea said
The town has agreed to make payments of up to $425,000 toward the demolition and remediation of the Foundry. A large portion of that money will come from the state under funding obtained by former state Rep. Richard Tulisano, LaRosa said.
Within 30 days of demolition permits being issued, the large structures on the property will be taken down. The buildings at the end of Glastonbury Avenue are expected to be taken down within 60-90 days.
“You will actually be able to see the river,” LaRosa said. The view of the river will remain even after the project is completed.
The developer needs to start the project within 180 days after the PZC approves the plan and construction must be completed in 18 months.
The town has agreed to tax abatements on the project that will see it taxed at just 50 percent of its fair market value for seven years, Borea said. The abatement “provides strong incentive” for the developer to get the project approved and built “in a timely fashion,” Borea added.
“The most immediate effect and benefit is that the eyesore that is down there right now is going to start coming down in a short amount of time,” he said.
Councilor Timothy Moriarty said the vote Monday was “a huge move in right direction” and would benefit a majority of the town.
“Anything is better than what is there now,” said Moriarty, a life-long resident of the town. “We are confident this thing could go forward and could be a win-win situation for everybody.”
He also expected some people to be opposed to the council's decision.
“For anybody to think nothing was going to go there. I think that thinking is ridiculous. Although I think that is what some people wanted. But, people do not buy and sell property to put nothing on it.”
While some people wanted a 10-acre park on the site, LaRosa said that idea would have lead to more traffice along Glastonbury Avenue.
“If we made the 10-acre park the way it should have been made, there would be twice as much traffic.“
There are docks in the plans that have to be approved by the Army Corp of Engineers and those permits will take longer to get and are not part of the town's proposed agreement with the developer, LaRosa said.