Conceptual layout of the commercial masterplan area for the proposed North Business Park in the Occum portion of Norwich. (Image courtesy of Henry Resnikoff, RFP, Inc.)
Norwich – Proposed plans for a second business park on former farmland in Occum are taking shape, with an area change application submitted to the city council to create a commercial master plan area for the 384-acre site.
Norwich Community Development Corporation signed $3.55 million for 17 parcels adjacent to Interstate 395, Canterbury Turnpike, Lawler Lane, Scotland Road and Route 97 in Okum, including the former Tarryk and Dolittle farms purchase agreement.
Norwich officials included $17 million in a larger regional federal grant application to buy land and develop parks, but the region learned in early September that it had not received federal funding.
That means the city will revert to its original plan to seek funding in stages to develop the park “as we originally did” until federal grant opportunities arise, said NCDC President Kevin Brown. The next step is to apply for zoning changes to create a commercial master plan district, Brown said.
The plan, called Business Park North, will be presented to the city council, which serves as the city’s zoning committee, on October 17. The council will present it to the Town Planning Commission at its Oct. 25 meeting. – The Zoning Committee schedules a public hearing.
NCDC’s purchase option expires on December 31. The NCDC board has discussed potential financing for the purchase in an executive meeting, but Brown remains hopeful that the program will go ahead as planned.
“We believe we are looking for a solution that will allow us to close by the end of the year,” Brown said of buying the property.
The 17 parcels were compiled by current owners M&A Holdings LLC and Byron Brook Country Club LLC for a proposed golf course resort and residential development that fell through in the early 2000s. These parcels of land are currently zoned for planned development or general commercial development.
Masterplan proposals submitted last week show the property being zoned for potential development parcels containing more than a dozen conceptual, primarily square or rectangular buildings ranging in size from 9,000 to 500,000 square feet, with some Labeled as “Resilient Building”.
The plan calls for the redevelopment of Exit 18 off Route 97 to create a designated ramp as the main entrance to the business park. The ramp design reflects East Lyme’s new Exit 74 ramp.
“There is little more land currently available for business parks serving the city to provide opportunities for new businesses,” the plan’s statement of purpose said. “Creating a new business park will allow Norwich to attract business within the BMPD-mandated uses, and then create jobs, generate real estate and personal property taxes and utility revenue by extending electricity and gas services to the business park. “
The Business Park North program has been in the works for several years, with Norwich Public Utilities offering an early development cost of $575,000, including a purchase option fee. The Business Master Plan District was created by the City Council in 2021 with anticipation for the newly proposed business park. The area acts as a floating area that can be applied to large areas of the city where major development is proposed.
The city’s Inland Wetlands and Waterways Commission has approved the plan.
The submission to the City Council Zoning Committee meant Mayor Peter Nistrom, Councilwoman Stacey Gould and Councilwoman Swaranjit Singh Khalsa had to drop out of discussions to become NCDC board members. City Manager John Salomone and Norwich Public Utilities General Manager Chris LaRose also serve on the NCDC Board of Directors.
The redesigned Exit Ramp 18 will include a new traffic signal on Route 97 and two new roundabouts for freight trucks, one on the new Business Park Road and one at the junction of the road with the Canterbury Turnpike, ‘Protecting local traffic on the Canterbury Turnpike’, State of the Plan.
Henry Resnikoff, a real estate consultant who worked with the NCDC to design the business park plan, told the NCDC board on Sept. 22 that environmental studies and archaeological studies had been carried out on the property, but no major finds had been found. A small area is still under archaeological review, Resnikov said.
Brown told the board that he has been in contact with the state Department of Economic and Community Development to support the project.
“Reaching the final state of title and licensed land makes it easier to market the property saying it’s ready,” Brown said.