Town Councilors recently approved the acquisition of approximately 58 acres of state-owned land in the north end of town.
During their July 12 meeting, the Council unanimously supported purchasing three parcels of land on Milldale Road (Route 10) and Interstate 691 from the state. The land is currently owned by the state Department of Transportation.
The Town must pay the state $1,000 to cover conveyance costs.
Andrew Martelli, Cheshire Economic Development Coordinator, said that the process to acquire the parcels of land has been “going on for quite some time.” He took over the project when he was hired by the Town in 2021. At the Council meeting, Martelli said consulting firm Woodard & Curran completed the first phase of an environmental site assessment of the property, which did not raise any concerns.
“We’ve hired a consulting firm to do wetland flagging,” Martelli said. “We’re waiting for the state to give us the go-ahead to go onto the property to do that.”
Once the properties are conveyed to the Town, the Town has five years to solicit proposals from private developers to develop the land.
“We have five years in order to secure a developer, put together a committee, (and) go through that and make sure that we have the highest and best use for economic development purposes for the community,” Martelli explained.
Town Manager Sean Kimball added that the Town also has six months after acquiring the land to get an appraisal done for the fair market value price of the property. The Town, Kimball added, will have to pay for the cost of the appraisal.
Prior to the Council’s vote, Councilor John Milone explained that he worked with Town staff and Kimball on the acquisition of the state land. He noted that, while the state identified the land as three parcels, the town assessor’s map identifies it as one large parcel.
Milone commented that the Council has a responsibility to find the right developer to purchase the land from the town.
“I do think it’s important … that we think clearly as a Council at how best to move this process forward because, as a Town, we only get the tax revenue from the end user,” Milone said. “We want to make sure we establish a process for the development of these parcels that brings forward the best end user for both the use of the property and for tax revenue to the town.”
Milone noted that the property is a large parcel with steep slopes, wetlands, and other “limiting areas” that reduce the amount of usable land. He suggested the Town acquire neighboring parcels of land to greatly expand the opportunity for development.
One abutting property is state-owned, Milone noted, while another two are privately owned.
Martelli urged the Council to acquire the property from the state, with the idea that they will have time to review next steps before selling the property to a developer.
“I think we’ll have plenty of time once we send the $1,000 check to the state and Sean signs everything off for the state to do what it needs to do to start getting the property in our hands,” Martelli said.
The Council is expected to refer the project to the committee level for further review during its monthly meeting this month.