Today is the deadline for the public to officially weigh in on The Villages, a mixed income 120-unit housing development project, and the potential approval of a Mohegan Tribe Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) boundary that could affect publicly-funded development.
The workforce housing project, in the works for the last 7 years, will generate $1.5 million in new tax revenue and 100 construction jobs, the developer says. And besides the positive economic impact, the housing is sorely needed as well, owners say.
But the project has been stalled since the state and federally-mandated environmental impact study determined there will be “adverse direct, indirect, and cumulative effects on historic properties” of the Mohegan Tribe. The TCP boundary, which includes The Villages site, would be recognized on the National Register of Historic Places thereby potentially stalling the project further.
But the developer charges the Tribe has known of the project since 2005 and never objected to the location.
The proposed TCP was raised because the non-profit developer sought funding from Housing and Urban Development and the state Department of Economic and Community Development. The agencies teamed with state Historic Preservation and the archeological consultant to hold a attended by more than 75 residents.
The majority were opposed to the TCP boundary, but supportive of the housing development. The consensus argument against the boundary was that the “historic properties” in question are located within densely populated areas and the commercial section of town with the Norwich-New London Turnpike running the length of it.
“A landscape which has been worked and developed,” Town Planner Marcia Vlaun said.
HUD and DECD representatives said even if the TCP is granted, the Tribe has little or no say as to what private developers do on any land within the zone, but that would not be the case with any project seeking state or federal help.
The bottom line: the environmental impact study found that while The Villages would have relatively few impacts to natural resources, it will – as designed – “adversely impact historic properties of particular significance to the Mohegan Tribe.”
The developer wonders why it took seven years for the Tribe to say anything.
“If the Tribe had said in 2005 ‘this land is so important to us’ we wouldn’t be here,” said Julie Savin of NeighborWorks New Horizons non-profit housing developer.
But as Tribal Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum the Tribe did not ask for the archeological review it was required under federal and state law, and if in fact the TCP boundary is approved, the majority of property owners inside that boundary would have to be on board. He also went on to say that the property owner has made “repeated offers to sell the property to the Tribe for many times its market value.”
HUD and state officials said public comment is factored in to any decision and today is the deadline for that comment. Mailed commentary must be postmarked today and emailed comment must be sent today.
Forward remarks, concerns and comments to Nelson Tereso, Project Manager, Office of Financial & Technical Review State of Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development 505 Hudson St. Hartford CT 06106-7106 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.