Preston Hospital Panel Mum Till Mediation

Preston — The lack of a public comment portion of an advisory committee meeting Wednesday night led to harsh words from residents who continue to support Utopia Studios Ltd.

On the advice of the committee's attorney, Norwich Hospital Advisory Committee Co-Chairman Michael Sinko did not include time for public comment on the meeting agenda.

“I have a question. I don't see why I can't ask a question tonight ... you've been allowing public comment all along up until now,” resident Joe Alfieri said.

After the meeting, Sinko said it would have been inappropriate to take questions about the fate of the 419-acre former state hospital property on Route 12 because town and Utopia officials could soon begin the mediation process. Sinko added that if the mediation process does not go well, litigation is a possibility.

Utopia has submitted paperwork to initiate formal mediation on the failed development agreement. Town officials terminated the agreement on Nov. 22.

First Selectman Robert Congdon said the Board of Selectmen will have a public comment portion of its meeting tonight at 6:30 at Town Hall.

Since Nov. 20, five firms have sent letters of interest to Congdon asking that they be considered in a future preferred developer selection process.

The firms include two newcomers — Northland Investment Corp. of Newton, Mass., and Riroto LLC of Mystic — and three firms that had previously submitted proposals — Thames River Landing LLC of Lebanon, Weston Solutions Inc. of Glastonbury and Gagne Development LLC of New York.

Congdon also said he's received phone calls from several firms that previously submitted proposals for the site to reaffirm their interest in being considered for a future project at the site. The firms include BellSite Development LLC of Manchester, New Boston Development Partners of Boston and JHM Financial Group of Stamford. None has submitted updated details about their plans for the property.

Committee members agreed Wednesday that they would begin an informal search for new developers for the property in early January.

The committee will next meet Jan. 3.
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