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Two new proposals presented for Norwich police station

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published May 15. 2014 4:00AM   Updated May 15. 2014 10:16AM

Norwich — Separate development teams presented plans Wednesday to build a new police station either on the former YMCA property on Main Street or a boatyard area off North Thames Street, with both groups proposing "public-private partnerships" in which the city would lease the building.

After hearing outlines of the two proposals, the City Council's Public Safety Committee voted to recommend to the full council that the ad-hoc Police Station Study Committee be asked to review the two proposals. Both sites were rejected by the committee in its ranking of some 30 sites considered for a new police station.

Henry Resnikoff told the Public Safety Committee that his group has an option on the former YMCA property, now controlled by Chelsea Groton Bank, which holds the mortgage from the defunct YMCA corporation.

That proposal calls for building below-ground parking and a three-story police station. Resnikoff admitted that the site is small; at 0.62 acres, it was rejected outright by the Police Station Study Committee as falling well short of the 2.72-acre minimum size.

The North Thames Street proposal would encompass three lots for a total of 2.55 acres, two owned by Thayer's Marine & RV and a third owned by the city. That site was rejected by the committee because it is located in a flood plain. Gary Schnip, owner of G. Schnip Construction, located a short distance from the site on Forest Street, and project attorney William Sweeney both said the floodplain issue can be resolved with engineering.

"Floodplains are not bars to development," Sweeney said.

The former Norwich city planner said with three rivers dominating the city's landscape, much of Norwich is located in floodplain, and the city could "quit now" if floodplain land was "taken off the map."

The project would elevate the parking structure above the floodplain and excavate enough of the land for flood waters to accumulate, replacing the area taken up by the building.

Both proposals called for the city to lease the project over a long-term period, potentially avoiding the need to go to referendum for voter approval.

But Alderman Mark Bettencourt, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said city officials need to be aware that even if the city leases the project, it would still be a big ticket cost for the city.

"Even a public-private partnership would end up costing the city quite a bit in the long run," Bettencourt said.

Neither development team provided cost or financing details, except to say the projects would be privately financed and leased to the city.

Alderwoman Sofee Noblick said the City Council could discuss the financial details in executive session if the projects are deemed feasible.

Police Station Study Committee Chairman David Eggleston said the committee would welcome the request to review the two sites and the specific projects. The committee's study work was completed with the delivery of the final report March 27. Two members resigned in anticipation that the committee would soon be disbanded, but Eggleston said the 11 remaining members could do the review.

"We think we're the right people to help them," Eggleston said.

c.bessette@theday.com

Editor's note: The headline on this story has been changed to more accurately reflect the content of the article.

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