Company interested in raising fish in former Garbo Lobster facility

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Groton — A company is interested in purchasing the former Garbo Lobster property on Thames Street to use it as a facility to raise fish sustainably.

City Zoning Enforcement Officer Carlton Smith has determined that the use proposed by Deaderick SSB, a Delaware-based limited liability company, appears to be allowed in the Waterfront Business Residence zoning district and to be the same as the property's existing use, according to a legal notice of his June 21 decision published in The Day on Friday.

"The proposed facility will utilize large tanks within the existing building, within which various fish species will be grown in a sustainable manner," according to the description of the proposed use. "The growing tanks will receive a constant flow of water directly from the Thames River, which water will circulate through the tanks, and be returned to the River."

Since it's a similar use as the shuttered Garbo Lobster facility, it appears that the proposal would not need to go to the Planning and Zoning Commission for approval, but could be handled administratively, City Planner Dennis G. Goderre said. The city has not received a formal application.

"The party has expressed interest and has been doing their due diligence, and we're assisting them as we can," Goderre said. "We're hopeful we can see that property re-used."

The 34,700-square-foot former Garbo Lobster facility at 415 Thames Street, built in 2002, is located along the Thames River and is owned by Just in Case LLC under East Coast Seafood Group of Topsfield, Mass., according to land and business records.

Deaderick SSB LLC could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

Mark Branse, a lawyer who is working on some of the land use issues for Deaderick SSB LLC, but is not handling the closing, said his understanding is that the company plans to purchase the property and raise fish in the facility.

"It's a new business in the City of Groton," City Mayor Keith Hedrick said. "It is water-dependent. It is utilizing our coastal resources, and it gives us an opportunity for growth and for economic development in the City of Groton."

Hedrick said the company is interested in purchasing the former Garbo Lobster facility to raise fish. The company also is interested in purchasing the vacant restaurant building at 359 Thames St., beside the former Garbo Lobster facility, but the potential use of that building is undetermined at this point because the city has not received anything official from the company, he said.

East Coast Seafood Group, which owns Garbo Lobster, shuttered the Thames Street lobster facility in January. The company said it planned to shift Groton's operations to a Prospect Harbor, Maine, facility that East Coast Seafood and Garbo Lobster acquired in 2012, as well as to its facility in New Bedford, Mass.

After the state Department of Labor filed a petition, the U.S. Department of Labor decided in February that the laid-off employees were eligible for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits because their jobs were impacted by foreign competition.

In its petition, the state agency cited information from U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and news about the impact of a Chinese tariff that Garbo representatives reported last summer during Courtney's visit to the facility. When the former employees were determined to be eligible for the benefits, Courtney called it "a great victory" for them.

East Coast Seafood Group said in a statement in February that its top priority is the employees impacted by the facility's closure and continuing to support them as they moved to other employment opportunities. The company said the relocation followed "years of careful planning," but that "current trade conditions reinforced the decision and hastened the move."

East Coast Seafood Group declined to comment for this article.

k.drelich@theday.com

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