Conceptual layout for Business Master Plan District for the proposed Business Park North in the Occum section of Norwich. (Image courtesy of Henry Resnikoff of RFP, Inc.)
Norwich ― A proposed plan for a second business park on former farmland in Occum is taking shape, with a zone change application submitted to the City Council to create a Business Master Plan District for the 384-acre site.
The Norwich Community Development Corp. has a purchase agreement for $3.55 million for the 17 parcels that include the former Tarryk and Dolittle farms on land that abuts Interstate 395, Canterbury Turnpike, Lawler Lane, Scotland Road, and Route 97 in Occum.
Norwich officials had included $17 million in a larger regional federal grant application that would have been used to purchase the land and develop the park, but the region learned in early September it did not receive the federal grant.
NCDC President Kevin Brown said that meant the city would revert to its initial plan to seek funding in stages, “chipping away, the way we would have done in the first place,” before the federal grant opportunity arose, to develop the park. Applying for the zone change to create the Business Master Plan District is the next step, Brown said.
The plan, called Business Park North, will be presented to the City Council, which serves as the city zoning board, on Oct. 17. The council will refer it to the Commission on the City Plan at its Oct. 25 meeting before the council-zoning board schedules a public hearing.
NCDC’s purchase option expires Dec. 31. Discussions by the NCDC board about potential financing for the purchase have been held in executive session, but Brown remains hopeful the plan is on track.
“We believe we are on path to a solution that will allow us to close by the end of the year,” Brown said of purchasing 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. The parcels now are zoned for planned development district or general commercial development.
The master plan proposal submitted last week shows the property divided into potential development parcels with a dozen conceptual mostly square or rectangular buildings ranging in size from 9,000 square feet to 500,000 square feet, some labeled as “flex building.”
The plan calls for reconstructing Exit 18 off Route 97 to create a designated ramp to serve as the main entrance to the business park. The ramp design mirrors the new Exit 74 ramp in East Lyme.
“The present business park serving the city has virtually no more land available to provide opportunities for new business,” the plan Statement of Purpose said. “Creating a new business park will enable Norwich to attract business within the uses set forth in the BMPD, which will then generate employment opportunities, generate real estate and personal property taxes and utility revenue by the expansion of electric and gas service to the business park.”
The Business Park North plan has been in the works for several years, with Norwich Public Utilities funding $575,000 in early development costs, including purchase option fees. The Business Master Plan District was created by the City Council in 2021 in anticipation of the new proposed business park. The district serves as a floating zone that could be applied to large areas in the city proposed for major development.
The city Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission has approved the plan.
The submission to the City Council-zoning board meant that Mayor Peter Nystrom, Alderwoman Stacy Gould and Alderwoman Swaranjit Singh Khalsa had to step out of discussions as members of the NCDC board of directors. City Manager John Salomone and Norwich Public Utilities General Manager Chris LaRose also serve on the NCDC board.
The redesigned Exit 18 ramp would include a new traffic signal on Route 97 and two new freight trucks-only roundabouts, one on the new business park road and one at the road’s junction with Canterbury Turnpike that “protects local traffic on Canterbury Turnpike,” the plan states.
Henry Resnikoff, real estate consultant working with NCDC to design the business park plan, told the NCDC board Sept. 22 that environmental studies and an archaeological study of the property have been done, with no significant findings. Resnikoff said one small area remains under archaeological review.
Brown told the board he has been in touch with the state Department of Economic and Community Development supports the project.
“Getting to the end state of titled and permitted land makes it much easier to market the property, to say it’s ready to go,” Brown said.