Finizio wants New London to take control of Fort Trumbull land

New London — Control over most parcels of land on the Fort Trumbull peninsula could be transferred to the city from its development association in the coming weeks if the City Council acquiesces to a request from the mayor.

At its meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio asked the council to authorize the cityto take title to the parcels of land before the Renaissance City Development Association meets on Sept. 18.

"I believe very firmly that the time has come for the city to retake its land at Fort Trumbull. I believe that the days are over where we need to be insulated from the responsibility of development in our own city so that things may be done in our name whether we approve or not of them," Finizio said Tuesday night. "I believe we, the elected officials of New London, need to be responsible for our future."

RCDA President Linda Mariani said Tuesday that she has been discussing the possibility of a transfer with Finizio and invited him to attend the RCDA's board of directors meeting Sept. 18 to answer questions from board members.

"I can't really understand what the benefit of the transfer is to the city," she said. "I think everyone is OK with the concept of it, but they're worried it may not make the most sense financially for the city."

Mariani said her biggest concern is that transferring the titles would make the city susceptible to liabilities from which the RCDA currently shields the city, such as environmental cleanup.

"There are so many opportunities for the city to encounter drastically large liability issues," she said. "Especially when we're trying to remediate areas where we don't even quite know the full extent of the remediation that's necessary."

Finizio wants the RCDA to convey to the city certain parcels not bound by federal Defense Base Closure and Realignment laws. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center was located for many years on federal property on the peninsula.

Securing the transfer of the deeds to land in the development area would effectively eliminate the RCDA and fulfill a promise Finizio made as a mayoral candidate. A major part of his 2011 campaign platform was a vow to abolish the New London Development Corp., as the RCDA was formerly known.

"We just want to do the right thing for the city. We want things to happen down there," Mariani said.

Finizio said Tuesday night he will present the council with separate resolutions that would give him the authority to "take title to the properties if offered by RCDA" and to use money in an economic development fund to pay the transfer taxes and legal fees associated with the title transfers.

He asked that the council come to a decision before the RCDA's Sept. 18 meeting.

"It would be preferable to know the will of the council on this issue and the will of the people of the city before the RCDA meets again because, I will be frank, relations between the city and RCDA and development are, in my opinion, stalled until this matter is resolved," he said.

Finizio suggested that the council form a "committee of the whole" and convene a public hearing to engage community members in the discussion.

"This is obviously going to be a very significant debate the city is going to have," he said. "Every councilor should have the right to be heard on this. The members of the public should have the right to be heard on this."

Council President Wade A. Hyslop said Wednesday he had not yet decided if the council will take up the issue before the 18th or how the council would go about debating the matter.

"We should move as cautiously as possible in doing this and make sure it is done right," Hyslop said. "It could possibly go to the economic development committee and have a public hearing."

Whether or not the council takes action related to Fort Trumbull before the next RCDA meeting, Hyslop said, he agrees with Finizio that the city and its elected officials should be the ones to decide the future of the peninsula.

"I would love to see the city of New London take control of the property over there and do something with it," he said. "It has been hanging out there for a while now. I hope it would be the will of the council to do so."

c.young@theday.com
Twitter: @ColinAYoung

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