September 23, 2022 By Vaseline

Preston residents vote to amend Norwich Hospital purchase agreement

Preston – After two years of negotiations between city, state and Mohegan Tribe officials over the terms of the cleanup and transfer of ownership of the former Norwich Hospital property, the amended agreement is awaiting a vote in the city.

The Board of Selectmen on Thursday approved the amendment to the property disposal and development agreement between the city and Mohegan and scheduled a city meeting and vote for Thursday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m. at Preston Plains Middle School. The Preston Redevelopment Agency approved the change Wednesday night.

Clean-up operations at the 393-acre property have all but halted for the past two years as parties disagreed over the terms of the cleanup, which was funded with a $7 million government grant approved in 2020 and a government loan in Funding of $2 million to the city should be necessary.

The amendment, which will be put before voters, asks the city to use $5 million of the $7 million state grant to continue the cleanup to the point where the tribe will take ownership of the property can. Mohegan will then receive the remaining $2 million in state grants and use of the $2 million in city loans, if necessary, to complete the redevelopment based on Mohegan’s proposed use of the property.

Although no specific development plans have been announced, tribal officials have proposed a mixed-use, non-gaming development that may include a sports complex, hotels, a large sporting goods store, a luxury campground, a marina, and an artificial snow ski facility.

Preston Redevelopment Agency chairman Sean Nugent said another major change eliminates the obligation for the city to clean the property to “residential cleaning standards.” Instead, Nugent said, the language calls for the property to be cleaned enough to allow for “technical checks,” such as B. Planting to prevent erosion and the use of clean fill in certain low-lying areas where water could collect.

“Kudos to the tribe. They never said, ‘That’s it, we’re going away,'” Nugent said of the change in cleaning standards. “Instead, they said, ‘How can we find a way to move forward?'”

Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman James Gessner said the tribe and the Preston Redevelopment Agency worked together on the change. He said the change “allows for a more realistic timeline” after the parties reached a better understanding of the environmental cleanup required and the use of government funds.

“It is also the perfect example of our shared commitment to this project, which will be an incredible asset to Preston, the Mohegan Tribe, the state and the region,” Gessner said in an email statement. “We look forward to final approval.”

The amendment changes and the original land disposition and development agreement is updated throughout the long document, with deletions shown in red and added language shown in blue. The documents can be viewed at the City Clerk’s and Electors’ Offices at Preston City Hall, at the Preston Public Library, and posted on the city’s website, www.preston-ct.org.

Nugent said once the changes are approved by the city and Mohegan Tribal Council, the parties would meet to iron out details about resuming the cleanup. Nugent hopes some work can be done later in the fall, but the big push will be next spring.

The delay began in 2019 when testing showed higher than expected coal ash contamination throughout the property. The state approved a $7 million grant to be used in conjunction with an earlier $2 million loan the city received from the state to complete the cleanup. Another delay occurred when state officials initially required the city to use the loan money first before the $7 million grant was awarded. Legislative action in 2021 clarified that grant money would be used first.

Another part of the agreement includes terms between the state and the tribe after the tribe takes ownership of the property, called a pass-through agreement.

The amended agreement also changes the terms of the $2 million soft loan the city received a few years ago. The original language required the loan to be forgivable if the Mohegan development creates 200 permanent jobs, and the amendment allows the loan to be forgiven for either the 200 jobs or $200 million worth of new building construction.

Once approved, the city has two years from the time work resumes to complete the cleanup and transfer ownership to Mohegan.

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