Norwich could consider purchase of property for new boat launch
Norwich — City officials have reached a $400,000 purchase agreement with the owner of a Thames River waterfront property that has been eyed as the potential new location for the boat launch now at the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park at Norwich Harbor.
The City Council on Monday will introduce an ordinance to purchase the 3.29-acre property at 1 Terminal Way from Lehigh Petroleum Supply Inc. and could schedule a public hearing on the ordinance for a future meeting.
Moving the boat launch has been in the works for the past several years, with the Shipping Street former industrial district that includes Terminal Way identified as the best new location in the 2011 Harbor Management Vision Plan.
That plan was used to obtain three state and federal grants for environmental assessments of the property.
An October environmental assessment report showed only expected industrial contamination at the site, with no surprises, project officials told the City Council at the time.
The $400,000 in the bonding ordinance sponsored by Mayor Deberey Hinchey would cover property acquisition.
The city has applied for a $2 million state cleanup grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Hinchey said Wednesday.
She said the boat launch could spur long desired economic development in the depressed Shipping Street area.
“It's a huge benefit for the city for the region,” Hinchey said. “It really goes along with the regionalization that I'm trying to promote.”
Peter Davis, director of planning and development, said three phases of environmental studies have been done on the property, and cleanup costs are estimated at between $1 million and $2 million.
City officials hope to win state approval to keep cleanup costs down by encasing contaminated soil beneath the boat launch asphalt.
Hinchey said a vote by the new Republican-controlled City Council would show state officials that the city is willing to invest in a project city leaders have promoted for the past several years.
New Republican Alderman Gerald Martin has served on the Harbor Management Commission that has backed moving the boat launch.
Martin said Wednesday he still supports the concept, but he needs more detailed information on the cleanup costs, potential future cleanup and construction funding before voting to buy the property.
Martin said he might want to delay the purchase until future plans are finalized.
“There's still a lot of questions I want answered,” Martin said. “I need specifics. I don't want to acquire a piece of property just to have it sit there. I'd like to have all those answers answered.”
John Paul Mereen, a former Republican Norwich Alderman and longtime chairman of the Harbor Management Commission until his recent resignation, welcomed the proposed ordinance as the first step in moving the project forward.
Mereen and former Mayor Peter Nystrom, now an alderman, presented the plan to state officials several years ago.
Mereen said the Terminal Way property is idea, because freight rail tracks that block access to the river along both banks veer away from the Terminal Way property, with a vehicle crossing in place.
“This has been looked at for over 30 years,” Mereen said. “The biggest problem has been availability of property. The reason there are no good boat launches along the Thames is because the railroad and the unwillingness of property owners to sell. We now have a parting of the waters to allow this to happen.”
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