New London backs stronger partnership with development arm

New London — The City Council on Tuesday authorized Mayor Michael Passero to sign an agreement with the Renaissance City Development Association that will expand its role in exploring development opportunities in the city.

The agreement comes with a $100,000 appropriation from city coffers to help supplement the development agency’s own budget and allow it to hire a full-time executive director — the first in a decade.

The RCDA will hire Norwich planning director and Waterford Selectman Peter Davis as executive director with a salary of $80,000.

Frank McLaughlin is serving as the part time assistant executive director with an annual salary of $30,000.

The agreement calls for the RCDA to share their resources and perform yet-to-be-identified economic development work in collaboration with the city’s Office of Development and Planning.

Office of Development and Planning Director Tammy Daugherty said there are emerging opportunities at Fort Trumbull as Electric Boat continues to expand — complimentary businesses or subcontractors that could locate nearby.

She said there is also the possibility of partnering with the state for a mixed-use parking garage in the area.

“There are some big things coming down pretty quickly with Fort Trumbull,” Daugherty said. “In order for those things to stay on track, and to work with the state and the city, RCDA needs to have full time staff.”

Outside of Fort Trumbull, Daugherty said, the RCDA is uniquely positioned to develop property around State Pier, and work on the city’s plan of conservation development and harbor management plan.

“I’m happy to say that now the works begins,” said McLaughlin after the City Council’s unanimous approval of the agreement.

Money to be provided to the RCDA comes from a pot of $277,340 in a city account that was specifically earmarked for the New London Development Corp., the predecessor of the RCDA.

The development organization has used millions in state funds through the years to improve the infrastructure in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, viewed as prime real estate for future economic growth in the city.

It was the taking of land by eminent domain and clearing of homes at Fort Trumbull that led to the landmark 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case, Kelo v. City of New London. The city ultimately prevailed.

Development has not come as fast as predicted since that time and the relationship between the RCDA and city had soured under former mayor Daryl Justin Finizio.

Passero, who has promised to rekindle the relationship with RCDA during his campaign, has said the new agreement further strengthens a relationship that will ultimately benefit the city.

Councilor Don Venditto, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said that the RCDA deserved the support and the agreement makes clear that the efforts of the RCDA go beyond Fort Trumbull.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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