Town gets grant to study W. Main blighted properties

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

The town of Plainville recently received a state grant of $200,000 for investigation of the environmental state of two continguous blight properties, located at 1 West Main St. and 63 West Main St. The grant is part of a $13.6 million grant that has been divided by 14 municipalities in Connecticut in order to address, remediate and revitalize blighted properties, encompassing a total of 89 acres of land.

“Blight property” is defined as land that is dilapidated, potentially unsafe and unsightly. Plainville’s blight property is the former home of White Oak Construction, which closed down about 15 years ago. The location is directly across from the Municipal Center downtown.

“Because of its past use as a construction company site, there is concern that the property might be contaminated or may have some type of hazardous material,” said Town Manager Robert Lee.

The continguous parcels of land are owned by the estate of Roger Toffolon, who owned the construction company. Lee said the town staff has been working with the estate executor, Marcia Toffolon, who offered to transfer the property to the town for the value of the back taxes that have accrued on the property over the years. The back taxes are in the half million dollar range, reported Lee.

“The town has the opportunity to purchase the property, subject to doing some investigation of the land,” said Lee. That is where the grant comes in.

Plainville’s option to purchase the parcel is available until September of 2018. In the meantime, the town will hire a licensed environmental professional to assess the land in a three-part investigation.

The LEP first looks at the record of history of the property, then conducts the investigation which includes taking soil and core samples, visual observations and testing those samples. They then take the results and develop a remedial action program  in a document that can be approved by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

“We are very pleased to be receiving this grant,” said Director of Planning and Economic Development Mark DeVoe. He said when the RAP is completed, it will be used as a guiding document to remediate and clean up the site, at which point the town would seek additional grant funding for the remediation. “We are really in the beginning stages of what could be a multi-year process.”

Once the town has secured a funding source to remediate, Plainville will be in “a good position” to take ownership of the land. Though both Lee and DeVoe reported there are no defined plans in place for the use, they hope for something that will amp up the downtown area and provide services to residents, as well as bring in guests to do business in town.

“Providing an area of town services for dining needs and shopping needs is a surefire way to help those businesses that are already here succeed, and is further incent for businesses to come in and make improvements in our downtown business district,” said DeVoe. “We’re really excited and it’s a great opportunity for Plainville.”

Looking ahead past the evaluation and clean-up of the property, the town may consider taking proposals from businesses that wish to develop on the property and benefit the town for years to come.

Lee said the area is a “very key parcel of land in town.” It is along the CTFasTrack busline, which will help to draw in guests. Some potential options he mentioned include retail, dining, housing, recreation, or a mixed-use, all depending on what the permit will allow.

“I think there are a lot of possibilities, and we just hope to take it one step at a time,” said Lee.