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EB workers seek places to park in Fort Trumbull

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published 07/30/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 07/30/2013 03:27 PM
City negotiating with submarine builder for spots in eminent domain neighborhood

New London - Electric Boat and the city are in negotiations to allow parking on two parcels of land in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, including one that was the subject of a renowned eminent domain court battle.

"We're still working with EB ... to try and find them parking,'' said Tammy Daugherty, the city's director of development and planning. "There are under-utilized surface parking spaces in Fort Trumbull."

The city also has moved school buses back to a lot in Fort Trumbull after removing them in May at the request of the developers of Village on Thames, a proposed three-phase, 103-unit housing development. The project stalled after developers Robert and Irwin Stillman accused the Renaissance City Development Association of contract violations. The two sides are in mediation.

The RCDA also is involved in negotiating a parking agreement with Electric Boat, Daugherty said.

RCDA executive board member Paul Geraghty said he is working on a plan to allow EB to use the so-called Parcel 4a, which was the subject of the eminent domain lawsuit, and a sliver of land on Trumbull Street between Fort Trumbull Marina and the water, referred to as Parcel 4b.

The two parcels would provide about 100 additional parking spaces, he said.

The city would grant Electric Boat a license to use the property, he said. The cost to EB is being negotiated. In a licence agreement, either party may terminate the agreement under specified circumstances, Geraghty said.

"We are looking at surface parking for them on a long-term, temporary basis,'' he said. "They would agree to turn it back to us when we need it."

Two families that owned land in Parcel 4a were displaced when the city took the land by eminent domain. Susette Kelo, one of the property owners, was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that argued that it was unconstitutional to take private property for future economic development. The appeals went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in a 5-4 decision in 2005 in favor of the city and against the property owners.

According to the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan, Parcel 4a is earmarked for parking and other uses.

EB has needed more parking than what is available in its parking garage on Pequot Avenue ever since moving into the former Pfizer Global Research and Development Headquarters in 2010. Electric Boat has brought about 2,750 workers into the city, hundreds more than the number of people who worked at Pfizer.

The school buses, which were moved from Fort Trumbull, in part because the Stillmans didn't like how they looked, are back on city-owned land on Walbach Street.

The 37 diesel buses were returned to the fort after spending several months on Crystal Avenue near the public works fuel-filling station under the Gold Star Bridge.

Daugherty, the development and planning director, said the Crystal Avenue location did not work because the buses were too close to residential areas.

"After a few months under the bridge, we discovered it was not an ideal location,'' Daugherty said. "It was really oppressive there and tough on the neighbors."

Earlier in the year, the city agreed to relocate the buses at the request of the Stillmans. At the time, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Irwin Stillman did not like the way the buses looked so close to his proposed development.

The school district had proposed other locations throughout the city, including spots at Ocean Beach Park, in a vacant lot adjacent to State Street Pier and on land on Cedar Grove Avenue that was being used for portable classrooms for Nathan Hale Elementary School. The Board of Education eventually agreed to the Crystal Avenue location.

Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer said Monday that the district "will be glad to work with the city in trying to find a solution that doesn't have a negative impact on the schools."

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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