Hotel plans for Fort Trumbull hit potential snag in New London

New London — Development of an aquaponics farm is off the table at Fort Trumbull but the Renaissance City Development Association, the city’s development arm, is expected to start the new year with continued negotiations for a hotel on the Fort Trumbull peninsula.

The hotel plans face an obstacle, however, with the nine-month negotiating period with J-Patel Hotel group for a $15 million hotel set to expire on Jan. 5. The RCDA has not been able to come up with a viable place to relocate the commercial fishing operation located on the waterfront pier that is a critical part of the 90- to 120-room hotel proposal. The RCDA does have the ability to extend talks for at least 30 days.

RCDA Executive Director Peter Davis called it a “Catch-22” situation because the state requires the RCDA to either have a valid relocation plan for the commercial fishing operation or maintain the proposed hotel property as a “water-dependent use,” something mandated in the Fort Trumbull municipal development plan approved in 2000.

For several years there has been discussion of relocating the fishing fleet to Central Vermont Railroad Pier, or C.V. Pier., at the New London Port near State Pier. Davis said the Connecticut Port Authority, because of the state budget woes, has not designated funds to make necessary infrastructure investments at the pier to support the idea.

“With the current condition of the C.V. Pier, it would be difficult to support commercial fishing or a growing commercial fishing fleet there without improvements,” Davis said. “There really is no place to relocate them to currently. There is not the infrastructure in New London Harbor."

Davis said the RCDA is “looking at other options” to potentially satisfy all parties but could not elaborate while in talks with the hotel developer.

Known as New London Seafood, the commercial fishing operations based at the Fort Trumbull pier has existed since 1989 when the business started leasing what was then private property. The lease predated the seizure of land by eminent domain in the Fort Trumbull development area that led to a Supreme Court case in 2005. The RCDA now owns the pier.

New London Seafood moves more than seven million pounds of seafood through its facilities each year and it is a regular stop for fishing boats from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.

Attorney Gordon Videll, who represents New London Seafood, said in the event the RCDA’s negotiations with the hotel developer end, New London Seafood will present the RCDA with a development proposal of its own for Fort Trumbull. He said he is barred from any discussions of the proposal while the RCDA is in talks with another potential developer.

“We wait patiently to see what happens with the hotel and the RCDA’s plan to relocate us,” Videll said. “However, we want to stay and develop the property if it works out.”

The hotel proposal is being pitched for the 9.4-acre site at Fort Trumbull known as Parcel 1, the largest parcel in the 90-acre Fort Trumbull municipal development area. AquaFarms America, which earlier this year proposed the idea of an aquaponics farm on parcel 4A, have since parted ways with the RCDA because of a reorganization within its company.

While proposals for the municipal development area have come and gone, the first new construction in the municipal development area appears to be on the horizon with the development of Shipway 221, a $30 million condominium project planned for two development parcels, 5C-1 and 5C-2, on Howard Street.

g.smith@theday.com

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