Two private entities have expressed an interest in purchasing and developing city-owned land off Bridgeport Avenue in what would become a new section of Constitution Boulevard.
“This is a deep-pocket developer, who has the financial wherewithal,” Mayor Mark Lauretti said of at least one of the interested parties.
For many years, the city has contemplated extending Constitution Boulevard from Bridgeport Avenue (near Exit 13) west to Shelton Avenue (Route 108, near Shelton Intermediate School) to open up new tracts for corporate development.
The city owns about 66 acres in this area, known as the Mas property due to a previous owner.
The city purchased the property from the FDIC in the early 1990s after the real estate collapse of the late 1980s ended private plans to develop it for commercial purposes. The city became the owner of an adjoining five-acre parcel through the FDIC after environmental remediation work was done on it.
Negotiating with potential buyers
The Board of Aldermen recently voted to allow Lauretti to directly negotiate with potential buyers, exempting the process from an ordinance that governs how city land should be sold.
Any actual sale still would have to come before the Board of Aldermen for a vote.
Aldermanic President John F. Anglace Jr. said the goal is to avoid having procedures in the ordinance on city land sales potentially slow down the sale and development of the property.
“We have to position ourselves” to get offers from interested entities, said Anglace, noting the aldermen still “will have the final say.”
“This is the first step,” agreed Lauretti.
Anglace and Lauretti, who are both Republicans, said the city land sales ordinance recently caused problems in trying to sell a city-owned building downtown at 470 Howe Ave.
“You can’t really sell property through the ordinance this way,” Lauretti said.
Gaining access to the land
The former Mas property extends about halfway from Bridgeport Avenue to Route 108. It is heavily wooded with a few small ponds.
The city still would need to gain access to Bridgeport Avenue for building a road through two privately owned smaller parcels. These undeveloped properties are owned by the Churma and Simonetti families.
Lauretti said the city can gain access by either buying these two smaller parcels, securing the needed rights-of-way, or taking them by eminent domain. He said through the years, discussions have taken place with the two owners about the need for the parcels.
There also will be a need for blasting to remove ledge near Bridgeport Avenue to put a roadway through. The extended Constitution Boulevard would begin where the existing section intersects with Bridgeport Avenue.
On the western side, the extended Constitution Boulevard would eventually intersect with Nells Rock Road just before Route 108 (approximately across Nells Rock Road from the Shelton Dog Park). Lauretti said the city has secured the needed rights-of-way to get the new road to Route 108.
“This is not new,” Lauretti said of the plan. “We’re following the mind-set of 40 years here. This is long-term planning becoming a reality. This is how government is supposed to work.”
Building a road
Lauretti said an interested developer likely would want to secure zoning approvals for corporate development before finalizing a land purchase from the city.
A plan to commercially develop the Mas property had been approved about 25 years ago, but that approval has now expired.
Any agreement with a buyer also would probably address the issue of building the new section of Constitution Boulevard. The city might look to have the private developer build the road for the city.
“The city’s goal is to have the road put in,” Lauretti said. “The city benefits from that road coming in because there will be economic development benefits.”
Road cost and wetlands issues
It’s uncertain how much it might cost to construct the road, but it won’t be cheap. Lauretti said he believes estimates in the 1990s were in the $6-million to $8-million range.
Some wetlands issues also would have to be addressed in building the road and developing the land.
The city has separate plans to eventually extend Constitution Boulevard North, going farther northwest to intersect with Soundview Avenue and eventually Maple Avenue.