Sale of Norwich Hospital property held up

Norwich - The sale of the Norwich portion of the Norwich Hospital property that seemed imminent in June is stalled to await complex estate proceedings in Farmington probate court, where the estate of a partner in the firm set to purchase the property from the state is being handled.

Ronald A Shelton, who owned 50 percent of Thames River Landing LLC, died in July just weeks after various state agencies and two legislative committees had approved the company's purchase of the 49.65 acres of the former Norwich Hospital property in Norwich for $300,000. The bulk of the former hospital site is in Preston.

Thames River Landing paid a non-refundable deposit of $30,000 a year ago. The remaining $270,000 is due by wire transfer or bank check at the closing, which was to be held 60 days following final state approval of the sales agreement.

Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative Services, said everything on the state's end of the agreement is completed, and the state is awaiting completion of the transaction by Thames River Landing.

"We generally do not discuss the state's real estate transactions until they have been completed," Beckham said. "We have an approved agreement to sell this surplus property and we expect that the buyer will complete the transaction in due course."

Mark Steier, the attorney for Shelton's estate, said Shelton was the sole owner of the firm Society Financial Corp. of Farmington, and that firm owned 50 percent of Thames River Landing. Mark Fields of Colchester owns the remaining 50 percent.

Steier said Thames River Landing's contract with the state to purchase the former Norwich Hospital property is an asset in Shelton's estate. Society Financial Corp.'s interest in the contract could be sold as part of the estate settlement, but the value of the asset must be appraised.

Steier said estate officials met recently with the probate judge, and the court asked that Society Financial Corp.'s interest in the Norwich Hospital property be appraised for its value at the time of Shelton's death.

He said there was no timeframe assigned to the task.

Fields said he cannot complete the purchase with the state until the probate court proceeding is completed. He said he had hoped to complete the process before winter to get started on engineering studies to determine the cleanup costs at the former hospital property.

"The state understands that these things are unforeseen and out of everyone's control," Fields said. "I see something happening very soon. Engineering firms are ready to start moving on (an) environmental plan. I have contractors ready to apply for cleanup and demolition permits."

In June, Shelton had told the General Assembly's Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and the Government Administration and Elections Committee that the LLC planned to develop the property with tourism attractions to take advantage of the proximity to the region's two casinos and the state's renewed emphasis on tourism.

c.bessette@theday.com

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