South Cove Riverfront Development
The newest member of the Economic Development Committee, Vincent Loffredo, called on the EDC to play a more active role in moving a long-stalled riverfront development plan forward. The EDC agreed to ask Mayor Seb Giuliano and Water and Sewer Director Guy Russo to
update the committee at their February meeting.
The riverfront development plan known as South Cove was created over 5 years ago. It proposes a mixed-use waterfront district including national retail, entertainment, housing, and professional office uses, on an 85 acre parcel of land south of Harbor Park. The plan requires the involvement of the State DOT, for changes to Route 9, and an agreement with the Mattabessett District Wastewater Treatment facility, to replace the Middletown treatment facility in the area of the proposed development.
Gerry Daley, Chair of the EDC said that the EDC had not been involved because an agreement first had to be reached to move the sewer treatment plant, "We have a plan for developing South Cove. Until the sewer plant is relocated we can't go forward." Committee member Joe Bibisi concurred, "We're at the mercy of the Mattabesett Commission." Loffredo was insistent, however, "This thing's got to move," and all agreed that an update from the Mayor and the head of Middletown Water and Sewer would be appropriate.
Ordinance to regulate Sexually Oriented Businesses
Director of Planning Bill Warner opened the discussion of a proposed new ordinance with the comment that it was a "Belt and Suspenders" situation. He said that existing Zoning regulations had prevented many business dealing in adult material from opening to Middletown, but the new ordinance would provide further restrictions. The proposed ordinance would allow a business to devote no more than 10% of their floor area to sexually oriented business.
Maromas business proposals
Warner updated the EDC on two of the six proposals to lease city-owned land in Maromas. The
deed restrictions on the land allow "active recreation" but do not allow residential development. He said that Artfarm co-founder Dic Wheeler had informed him that the Artfarm vision for an arts and agriculture center required interns to live on the property, and said the mayor had written to Attorney General Blumenthal asking for a legal interpretation on the issue of whether the deed restrictions prevent residency by Artfarm interns.
The EDC also heard an update on the proposal to build a 9-hole golf course in Maromas, to be called Arawana. Warner and the golf course proposer, Tony Pioppi, said they have been holding intensive negotiations on the terms of a possible lease. Pioppi was at the meeting and he explained that he needed a long-term lease to justify the $3M investment for building the course. Pioppi and Warner are discussing a 10 year lease with eight 10-year extensions possible only if all conditions of the lease are upheld.
The EDC grappled with the City's need to maintain control of the land until the time when it could ensure that there would be appropriate and productive development, and Pioppi's need to gain "control of the land" before he could convince investors to support his project. Before moving forward, EDC members wanted to know what kind of lease might be negotiated. Warner and Pioppi mentioned a rent of 2.5% of gross revenue, based on the model for the Pin Oaks Golf Course, which was proposed off of Newfield Street.
Negotiations are ongoing over the issue of taxes. Arawana would own the improvements to the land, including the greens, and taxes on these improvements could easily top $60k per year, far more than Pioppi hopes to pay in the rent. Warner indicated that the city could offer tax abatements and other incentives to reduce the tax burden for Arowana.
The EDC voted to review the two Maromas proposals again at its January 11th meeting.