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Norwich planning commission endorses riverfront property purchase for boat launch

Norwich — The Commission on the City Plan will forward a favorable recommendation to the City Council on the plan to purchase Thames River waterfront property for $400,000 to relocate the downtown boat launch to the Shipping Street former industrial district.

The commission voted unanimously at a special meeting Thursday that the plan to move the boat launch to property at 1 Terminal Way complies with both the Plan of Conservation and Development and the Harbor Management Plan.

It also is one centerpiece in a Harbor Vision Plan endorsed by both the City Council and harbor commission in 2011.

The vote is an advisory opinion to the City Council required in the city charter for all proposed city real estate transactions.

The City Council will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 on a proposed ordinance to purchase the 3.29-acre former warehouse building at 1 Terminal Way to move the boat launch.

The city received a $200,000 state environmental assessment grant in spring 2014, and the resulting report showed only expected levels of industrial contamination with no surprises, said Peter Davis, city director of planning.

Davis told the commission Tuesday that he has been working on finding a new location for the boat launch at the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park since 1995.

A study of sites along the Yantic, Shetucket and Thames Rivers at the time also zeroed in on the former Lehigh Oil property at 1 Terminal Way as the best site, Davis said.

The current boat launch is considered both a public safety hazard and an inconvenience to boaters, with little parking for vehicles and trailers in the vicinity.

The park also is closed to boaters during several major summer events, including Juneteenth Day, the July 4 fireworks festival and A Taste of Italy in September.

Commission members in their endorsement cited a provision in the Plan of Conservation and Development that calls for improved public access to the city's waterfront and the Harbor Management Plan that specifically calls for relocating the boat launch to the Shipping Street area.

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

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