Trust will buy part of Coogan Farm for open space

Mystic - The Trust for Public Land and the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center announced Tuesday that the trust has reached a preliminary agreement to purchase 34 acres of the 63-acre Coogan Farm so it can be preserved as open space.

Meanwhile, the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission was expected late Tuesday night to complete its public hearing on plans for a 245-unit assisted living facility on 18 acres of the farm. The commission is expected to discuss whether to approve the Mystic Senior Living project at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Nature center Executive Director Maggie Jones said the center and trust have reached agreement on the price and other terms with the Clara Morgan Coogan Trust, the owners of the property.

She declined to release the purchase price Tuesday but said that information would be made public over the next few days.

"The nature center will be launching a significant capital campaign to pay for this," she said.

She said the nature center, which would become the permanent owner and manager of the land, is moving forward with the acquisition, including fundraising. The nonprofit Trust for Public Land is providing assistance with negotiations, fundraising and grant writing. The nature center not only plans to protect the property from development but develop a trail system for recreation.

"The Coogan Farm is an important addition to the Nature Center and the community at large. It will enhance our educational programs while providing trail connections and areas the public can enjoy for hiking and wildlife viewing," Jones said in a statement.

In addition to constructing the assisted living facility, Morningside Management of Virginia and BROM Builders of Norwich plan to preserve the remaining 11 acres of the farm as more open space.

It is estimated that Mystic Senior Living would pay $400,000 in annual taxes, making it the town's second largest taxpayer behind Stone Ridge retirement community. It would create 125 jobs.

Unlike StoneRidge, which requires residents to buy units, Mystic Senior Living units would be rented. The project would be built in two phases with memory care and assisted living in phase one and independent living in phase two.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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