Bowles welcomes Cafero’s hospital land interest
The state representative whose district contains the bulk of the former Norwich State Hospital property said he is pleased with the interest shown by his chamber’s top Republican in redeveloping the land.
State Rep. Timothy Bowles, D-Preston, said he met for about 15 minutes on Thursday with Republican Minority Leader Rep. Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk regarding Cafero’s House Bill 6267, which calls for the state government to foster economic development of the former hospital property. Preston bought 393 acres of the tract in 2009 from the state and renamed it Preston Riverwalk.
“He’s interested in working with us,” Bowles said of Cafero. “I welcome his interest. We will continue the ongoing discussion.”
Cafero couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday but a spokesman said House Republicans are concerned that large assets statewide are sitting too long before being redeveloped.
“The genesis of this is his (Cafero’s) interest in economic development from a broad standpoint,” House Republicans spokesman Pat O’Neil said. “That property has been sitting there forever.”
Two other Republicans, Reps. Vincent Candelora of North Branford and Themis Klarides of Woodbridge, are also sponsoring the bill, which calls for discussions with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations, owners of Eastern Connecticut’s two casinos, as well as the U.S. government. The Riverwalk tract is directly across the Thames River from the tribally owned Mohegan Sun casino.
Preston leaders and others in Eastern Connecticut didn’t request the bill and have been looking to talk with Cafero since he introduced the measure. The bill is before the Commerce Committee and a public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19. Rep. Steven Mikutel, D-Griswold, a member of the committee, said he hasn’t been briefed about the bill by its sponsors or anyone else. Cafero, Candelora, and Klarides are not members of the committee.
“It’s something that came out of the blue,” Mikutel said Thursday. “It’s interesting that they introduced it without talking to any of us (in Eastern Connecticut) about it. It’s strictly a Republican bill.”
Bowles sees Cafero’s bill bolstering ongoing efforts by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration including the Department of Economic and Community Development. The department signed a $4 million loan agreement with the Preston town government last year and voters approved the pact in December. The agreement, which contains a $2 million town matching component, is aimed at financing a major phase of building demolition and land cleanup.
“We’re very appreciative Gov. Malloy’s efforts and we’re glad that they’re being supplemented,” Bowles said.
The state Department of Administrative Services has been trying to sell 47 acres on the Norwich side of the town line that were once part of the hospital property after the Norwich City Council declined to purchase them. Department spokesman Jeffrey Beckham couldn’t be reached for comment.
The former psychiatric hospital closed in 1996.