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Details revealed in proposal to purchase land for second Norwich business park

Norwich — A plan being studied to create a second business park in the Occum area calls for the Norwich Community Development Corp. to pay $3.55 million to the owners of 17 parcels comprising 348 acres of land in rural Occum, where proposals for a luxury golf resort and commercial development fell through a decade ago.

NCDC on Friday released the purchase and sale agreement with the two New York ownership entities and four amendments, the latest signed on Sept. 30, that extend the feasibility study period for the proposed business park to as late as Dec. 15, 2022. The proposal calls for purchasing the entire 272 acres owned under the names Byron Brook Country Club LLC and the 76 acres owned by M & A Holdings LLC.

The land includes the former Tarryk and DoLittle farms and runs along Interstate 395, Canterbury Turnpike, Lawler Lane, Bromley Lane and Scotland Road and connects with land on Route 97 and School Avenue in Occum, where the commercial development had been proposed.

“This remains the largest developable property in the city,” NCDC attorney Mark Block, designated spokesman on the proposal, said Friday. “It’s NCDC’s belief that the future development of the city depends on the ability to expand. There’s no land available.”

The proposed purchase price is significantly lower than the $13.75 million sale price developers Joseph Manzi and Robert Arnone sought when they put the property on the market in 2011. They had withdrawn the country club plan in 2010, citing the Great Recession economic downturn.

NCDC’s initial purchase and sale agreement dated July 31, 2019, called for NCDC to close on the property by Dec. 31, 2019. But the agency requested extensions to investigate whether the property is suitable for creating a second business park, including the feasibility of extending high-capacity utilities to the rural area. Four amendments for extensions have been approved, the latest signed on Sept. 30, that allows for two extensions: one ending Dec. 15, 2021, and a second, if necessary, extending the study period to Dec. 15, 2022.

Block said Friday that NCDC would be the buyer and owner of the property, rather than the city. He said to date, no funding source or financing plan is in place to purchase the property.

The purchase and sale agreement required a deposit of $65,000, and extension payments made to date total $110,000. The latest amendment calls for payments of $150,000 for each of the two new extensions through 2021 and 2022. The first payment of $75,000 is due by Jan. 2, 2021.

Norwich Public Utilities has made all the deposit and extension payments to date, Block said, and would pay the remaining $300,000 in extension payments if all extensions are executed. The Board of Public Utilities Commissioners twice approved spending $250,000 toward what was described as investigation into an unspecified economic development opportunity for the city. Block said that money was used to pay for the deposits.

All deposits and extension payments would be applied to the total purchase price if NCDC buys the property, but if all extensions are used and NCDC decides against purchasing the property, the initial $65,000 deposit and the two $150,000 payments would go to the current owners.

NPU spokesman Chris Riley said NPU is "supporting NCDC's due diligence, which includes utilities," and said the investigation could take some time. He also deferred to Block for comments on the specifics of the agreement.

The city’s current Stanley Israelite Norwich Business Park is “built out,” Block said, with the only remaining land NCDC owns being wetlands that can’t be developed. While a few buildings or parts of buildings might be vacant currently, the city’s designated economic development agency does not own or control them, he said.

This is not the first time Norwich officials have looked at the expansive Tarryk Farm property as a potential business park. NCDC proposed a similar plan for an industrial park on the Tarryk Farm on Canterbury Turnpike in 1989, long before the current park had reached its capacity.

In that plan, the city itself would have been the buyer and owner of the 110-acre Tarryk Farm for the negotiated price of $1.2 million. As with the current plan, NCDC secured an option and extensions on a purchase agreement to allow time to study the feasibility of developing the property, including how to add an off-ramp from I-395.

But a year later, on Nov. 7, 1990, Norwich voters soundly rejected a referendum question to bond the $1.2 million purchase price in a vote of 5,095 to 2,545. No referendum would be required if NCDC secures financing or a funding source independent of city bonding to buy the property.

c.bessette@theday.com

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