Lack of water, sewer keep development away from Groton street

Groton - The lack of utilities has long been considered an obstacle to developing the industrially zoned land along Flanders Road.

It still is.

It would cost $16.9 million to bring sewer and water lines to the area, according to the newest estimates and project plans that consultants Fuss and O'Neill presented to the Town Council last week. The estimate includes $1.9 million to cross underneath the bridges of Interstate 95 and reach the northern parts of Flanders Road.

Town Manager Mark Oefinger said the area between Flanders Road and Route 117 is a desirable area for development and has been since the 1960s. In his time in the area, Oefinger said, proposals have included a connector road linking Route 117 and Flanders Road and the idea of a municipal industrial park. Both ideas never came to fruition.

"Basically it exists as it did 40 years ago," Oefinger said.

While he sees it as a public investment that would pay dividends and diversify the tax base in the long run, Oefinger said he also is keenly aware that the cost might be prohibitive in today's economy.

"The issue has been how to fund it. I think part of it is the sticker shock," Oefinger said. "It's a lot of money. And I think it's fair to say without town interest it will be a long time before water or sewer is expanded past Interstate 95."

With the cost estimates and technical details now in hand, however, Oefinger said the town can better consider how to proceed. If it is treated as an economic development project, the town could decide to pursue bonding, low interest loans and grants.

There are at least 108 acres of undeveloped land along Flanders Road that could be reached by the project, according to Fuss & O'Neill, though Oefinger said that number is conservative.

The Mystic Business Park on Flanders Road would benefit from the utilities, though park owner Tim Tylaska is not holding his breath.

Tylaska, owner of Tylaska Marine Hardware, was among other business owners who spent years lobbying the town for action.

With the Mystic Business Park Now home to more than 30 businesses, Tylaska was forced to create his own public water system. It's a designation used when there are more than 20 users on a well-fed system. He's had to turn away prospective tenants.

"This is the only area in Groton zoned industrial. To bring my business here in town I pretty much had no choice," Tylaska said. "Other businesses had the same problem. It has turned out to be an expensive proposition."

In addition to the well water, Tylaska said, he has installed a massive septic leach field system.

"It would be great to have the utilities here, but the amount of land to be serviced is not enough to justify it," he said. "I'd like to expand. But realistically, I don't see it ever happening."

"The cheapest way to get water here is to get a fire hose and run it down the road," Tylaska jokes. "You'd be able to use it in the summertime at least."

g.smith@theday.com

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