New Plans for the Highway Garage

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The Suffield Highway Garage on Ffyler Place was built in 1974, but for over a dozen years, the Town has been contemplating ways to move it elsewhere, removing a perceived deterrent to desirable, tax-paying development of the entire Ffyler Place neighborhood: the Town’s two acres and the Laureno family’s 27 acres. The Town has considered many potential locations for the move, many more than the four that have been described in the Observer, culminating, one might have thought, in the proposal to buy a custom-built new building on the site of the derelict Wicks lumberyard on East Street South.

But First Selectman Melissa Mack reported to the Selectmen on May 1 that Suffield developer Kevin Casey had proposed to adapt an existing building at 1160 South Street and sell it to the Town for the garage for $2.4 million, a good deal less than the $3.4 million for the Wicks proposal.

In a more detailed public presentation at the May 15 Selectmen’s meeting, Kevin Casey said he would also take ownership and demolish the old garage and acquire the Town’s eventual obligation to pay the estimated $0.7 million cost of the required clean-up; the old garage site (it was once the Town dump) is considered a Federal brownfield). Casey would build 45 units of market rate apartment housing on the garage site, which would have the advantage of walkable village living. As First Selectman Melissa Mack described it, this would be a practical way to begin the development of Ffyler Place, rather than waiting for a more comprehensive plan.

The financial benefits of the proposal would include Tax Incentive Funding and something called a Credit Enhancement Agreement. Another benefit would be the use of existing office space in the new location for all Town offices during the upcoming Town Hall renovation. The taxes lost by the South Street building coming off the tax list would be more than offset by the new taxes on the apartments. Also there would be increased taxes from the eventual development of the rest of Ffyler Place, which would be made more likely by the removal of the garage.

The building at 1160 South Street was built as the warehouse and office of Adams Aircraft, a parts supplier owned by the late Eugene Longo. It leaves little side space in the lot, but is thought to be roomy enough to allow trucks to enter from the end of the long building and drive to the repair and parking bays. There would not be space for the salt shed, which would be built separately for an estimated $200,000 on town-owned land abutting on the north, behind the new warehouse and distribution center at 1140 South Street.

After considerable public questions and discussion, the Selectmen voted 4–1 to approve the new proposal and send it to the Board of Finance for approval. It would require a Town Meeting, possibly in June, for final approval.

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