In the latest chapter in the four-year Connecticut Studios saga, a revised site plan has been filed with the town for the construction of a 600-square-foot building on the 20-acre parcel that the town turned over to developers as part of the original deal.
Ostensibly, the proposal is meant to satisfy - or circumvent - the requirement that construction start on at least one building within three years of Oct. 26, 2009, the date the deal with the town was signed. If that does not happen, the property reverts to the town.
The clock is ticking on that provision and the $88 million, 73-acre project has stalled due to delays in getting financing for the deal, preventing actual construction that includes several movie studios with sound stages, a mill for the building of sets, a hotel and commercial space to be built on 40 acres of land. A solar farm has been added to the deal to pay for the infrastructure.
Town councilor Cary Prague announced the latest development at the meeting Thursday, stating that he saw the revised site plan that calls for the construction of the small building on Town Planner Michele Lipe’s desk.
Prague, a vocal critic of the developer in recent months, was not pleased with the plans.
“I was pretty taken aback by that,” said Prague, adding that he would rather that the developer reveal its financial situation, give “honest answers” and ask for more time than resort to its latest proposal. “I’m appalled by it.”
Town Manager Matthew Galligan said that the developer took out building permits on other portions of the property that were not provided by the town. When he informed the developer that those permits would not satisfy the reverter clause in the deal, the developer filed its current revised site plan.
“I had discussions with them and told them it’s not the way to go,” said Galligan, who added that the original plans called for a 1,000-square-foot building to serve as offices, at least temporarily. “I’ve asked the developer to pay attention to what I am saying. … That building will probably never go up.”
Galligan stopped short of offering an opinion as to whether the building would even satisfy the reverter clause.
Prague expressed his concern that the revised site plan wouldn’t go through the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, though Galligan said that it would have to get all the necessary approvals.
Galligan said that Connecticut Studios LLC has run into some roadblocks set up by outside organizations that are not entirely its fault.
“They have been thrown some curveballs,” said Galligan, who did not reveal more because disclosure provisions prevented him from doing so.
Still, the developer also hasn’t done itself any favors.
Indeed, the 20 acres of land that the town contributed to the deal is now encumbered by a $1.5 million mortgage taken out by the developer. What’s more, the town has two liens on the property due to some $40,000 in back taxes that the developer owes.
It's been a slow, steady decline for a project that once held so much promise in South Windsor and central Connecticut. When it was first proposed, the studios were estimated to create thousands of jobs and generate revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
There have been two groundbreakings, including one with former Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Now talk of constructing a small building to satisfy the reverter clause in the town’s deal drew the ire of Mayor Tom Delnicki.
“I’m extremely disturbed by this,” he said, citing the back taxes and the mortgage. “They’ve got to do what they promised to do that they haven’t done, yet. The community’s patience has run out. I think the council’s patience has run out. I think enough is enough.”