The Town Council Tuesday voted to form a joint committee between the town of Farmington and city of Hartford to guide development of the 86-acre parcel at Batterson Park. Town officials hope development of the parcel, which is owned by the city of Hartford but located in Farmington, will bring the town considerable tax revenue and jobs and continue to build on the success of its bioscience corridor.
“This piece of property opens up a whole new opportunity for us, especially if we can get it shovel ready,” said Rep. Bill Wadsworth, who came to the Tuesday night meeting to support the plan.
The property, which sits off of Interstate 84 and Fienemann Road and is separate from the actual park, had sat undeveloped with its future undecided for more than two decades, Wadsworth said.
“All of a sudden… this property was put into the bioscience corridor and we had a $1.4 billion investment in UConn, Jackson Labs came to town, genomic science came to town and Farmington became the bioscience area of Connecticut,” he said.
The space represents an opportunity for further development to support the growing bioscience industry in Farmington, Town Manager Kathy Eagen said, away from the congested area of Route 4 by the health center.
Projections based on the Connecticare campus in Farmington show the area could be used to contain more than 3,000 jobs and bring in around $2.5 million in taxes from the land, real and personal property that would be on the site. Because the area is in the town of Farmington, taxes would be paid to the town. Currently, the property generates no taxes.
Hartford, as owner, retains development rights and when the right developer was found, would issue a 99-year lease.
The city of Hartford initially applied to the Farmington Town Plan and Zoning Commission for a change of zone but the commission refused to grant it until a developer was named. So, the new joint committee of Hartford and Farmington representatives will work together to solicit first a broker, then proposals to develop the property.
The area will likely be PR zoned, Farmington Economic Development Director Courtney Hendricson explained Tuesday. That allows for a particular type of use, mostly office and professional space, including research and development. A very small amount might be approved for a bank or hotel, she said.
“We would hope this property would be very appealing because it’s in the bioscience enterprise zone and there are tax incentives, and all of that,” Eagen said. “We’re hoping a large R&D group or something like that would be interested in this piece of property.”
Councilor Mike Demicco noted that if the tenant were to fall within the requirements of the bioscience criteria, tax revenue to the town would be decreased during an initial period. Hendricson explained it would be about 40 percent less in taxes for the first five years.
The council named Town Councilor CJ Thomas, Economic Development Commissioner Brian FX Connolly and former Town Council Chairman Mike Clark to the town’s allotted three spots on the advisory committee.
Clark was named as a town resident, to which Demicco objected. He said that while he knew Clark would do an excellent job on the committee, the town resident seat aught to be reserved for a town resident – not a former official – who lived in the neighborhood and could represent a resident’s interests.
Demicco made a motion to add another seat to the committee, which would require getting approval from the Hartford City Council, that failed 5-2. The original motion to establish the committee passed unanimously.
“This possibly could mean 3,000-3,600 jobs. This is the future for Farmington… Future generations will thank you forever for what we’ve done so far with the UConn Health Center initiative and with this on top of it, our quality of life and low taxes could be perpetuated into the future,” Wadsworth said.