Waterford Airport property ready for takeoff
Waterford — The former airport property has a new suitor.
Vacant for 37 years, what’s known locally as “the Waterford Airport property” at 140 Waterford Parkway South is once again a target for development, this time by Fabcon Precast, a concrete manufacturer based in Minnesota.
At 188 acres, the airport property value is currently about $4.3 million, according to the town tax assessor’s office. Fabcon did not disclose the details of its deal with Mathon Fund I LLC, except to say it’s contingent on the town approving development of the property.
Town Planner Abby Piersall said Fabcon has so far applied for inland wetlands approval from the Conservation Commission as well as filing a special permit application, which includes the site plan, with the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The Conservation Commission has yet to come to a decision on Fabcon’s applications. Jordan Brook and Nevins Brook are both on the property.
Piersall said the town is preparing notices for a public hearing she expects to take place in early October.
Fabcon CFO Mark Pederson spoke to how the company scoped out the Waterford property for development.
“We’re interested in opening a new plant somewhere in the New England market,” Pederson said. “When you start looking around at sites that are big enough to accommodate our needs, it was hard to find an appropriate site. The airport site happened to fit.”
Since it opened its first plant in 1971, Fabcon has steadily expanded its operations. The company now has plants in Minnesota, Ohio, Kansas and Pennsylvania.
Pederson said the Pennsylvania plant had been servicing the New England market at “quite a distance.” Fabcon determined there was enough demand in the area to warrant the building of a new plant. Although Fabcon won’t buy the land unless it gets the proper approvals for development, Peterson said “so far we’re on track to make that happen.”
Fabcon’s land use application elaborates on its plans in Waterford.
“The development is proposed on the east side of Jordan Brook, which is approximately a 97-acre portion of the 188-acre parcel,” the application reads. Fabcon promised to demolish and remove any remaining structures and to “construct a new 123,284 SF (130,000 SF Gross Floor Area) concrete products manufacturing facility with an outdoor storage yard and related site improvements on roughly 41 acres of the 188-acre site. The building will include 122,000 SF of manufacturing and 8,000 SF of offices.”
The plan includes a new driveway system and space for 60 parking spots.
“Truck loading will occur at several locations around the building and in the storage yard,” the application reads. “Vehicle deliveries include gravel deliveries, hardware, steel, lumber, cement, foam insulation, admixtures, and pigments, and vehicles also will remove debris and recycle material including filter cake (concrete waste), lumber or pallets, cardboard, metals, and office debris.”
Piersall said all exhibits related to Fabcon’s possible redevelopment of the Waterford Airport property can be found on the town Planning & Development website.
Waterford First Selectman Rob Brule is optimistic about the possible development.
"I am supportive of building the town's tax base and putting a project at the old airport property, which is zoned industrial, as long as it meets the zoning and wetland regulations of the town in all respects," Brule said.
Some in Waterford are unaware the town was home to an airport from 1945 to 1987. Its three runways were destroyed decades ago. Now, the property is mostly a wooded area with overgrown vegetation and some litter.
Russell Corser, a pilot from Waterford, founded the airport in 1945. Corser announced in 1978 that he hoped to sell the land. In 1979, neither a proposed industrial park nor a proposed 19th-century “Disney Land,” complete with horse shows, a hotel and an amusement park, came to fruition. New England Savings Bank bought the property in 1984, anticipating an office park, hotel and convention center, but after $300,000 in improvements to the property, not a single building went up.
Reynolds Metals Development Co. bought the property in 1987 with plans to build an industrial park called “Waterford Landing.” But after hundreds of thousands of dollars in soil remediation, lawsuits related to its wetlands permit and efforts to put utilities on the property, Reynolds Metals left the deal in 1997.
Rumors of different entities willing to buy and develop the property have persisted for decades, but deals never materialized.
The Mathon Fund I LLC, the mortgage-holder that foreclosed on the Waterford Airport site in 2005, faced its own legal troubles around that time. Principals Duane Slade and Guy Williams were convicted for defrauding investors of more than $167 million in a Ponzi scheme. A court-appointed conservator who was tasked with recovering money for defrauded investors took Mathon over.
“There’ve been discussions over the years, folks have come in with interest about the property and asked general questions of what could be done there, but in my five years, no one has come this far to going forward, no one else has submitted permits,” Piersall said.
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