Mohegan Tribe's Cultural Boundary Reduced But Still Could Block Affordable Housing

The Villages housing development would be built in zone that is home to sacred stone piles on Mohegan Hill created by the "Little People" who live deep within the ground.


The powerful historical and spiritual significance of Mohegan Hill to the MoheganTribe has been summed up in this excerpt from the Tribe’s opinion, “ expressed formally in a letter from James Quinn, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, to federal Housing and Urban Development on February 10, 2012. “

“The sacred stone piles on Mohegan Hill are a critical feature of the traditional landscape of Mohegan Hill; they were created by the “Little People” who live deep within the ground of Mohegan Hill. These “Little People” or Makiawisug are the ancient culture heroes of this region. These stone piles also possess powers that protect the Mohegan people from outsiders. Not only do the “Little People” still live within the ground on the Hill and continue to guard the stones, these stone piles are perceived as being made of the bones of Mother Earth and they contain messages that guide generation after generation of Mohegan People. Contemporary Mohegan tribal members make offerings to the “Little People” in hopes that they will continue to protect our Tribe.”

It was this and Uncas Fort, Uncas Rockshelter, Uncas Spring and Cabin, Moshup’s Rock, adjacent to the Mohegan Congregational Church, which features a stone called the footstep of the giant Moshup, the Tantaquidgeon Museum and myriad stone features that made the case for an approved albeit a much reduced boundary than originally requested.

But not scaled back enough to allow a mixed income 120-unit housing development project hoping for federal Housing and Urban Development loans to move forward without an understanding between the developer and the Tribe. The Traditional Cultural Property boundary would be recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The revised boundary encompasses a district of clearly identifiable historic resources that together reflect significant aspects of Mohegan history and traditional cultural and religious practices,” the State Historic Preservation Office letter states.

Town Councilor Rosetta Jones, who has been a Villages supporter said the “substantially scaled back” boundary came as a result of  “support and public outcry of the our citizens.”

The bottom line?

The TCP has been recognized and if The Villages wishes to move forward, it’s going to have to work with the tribe to mitigate impacts. The $19 million project is planned for a 12.2-acre parcel near Fort Hill Drive off Route 32. The developer was required to do an archeological study since it was applying for federal funding.

Seven years in the making

The non-profit project developer said she was “angry” at a June public hearing on the proposed boundary.

 “If the Tribe has said in 2005 this land is so important to us we wouldn’t be here,” Julie Savin of NeighborWorks New Horizons non-profit housing developer said in June.

“This project got a HOD (special housing zone approval) in 2005. We had public hearings. The Tribe was there and there were no objections," she said at the time. "I’m angry. A lot has gone into this. This is important work force housing that this town needs.” 

The hearing was required to gather public input  before HUD and the state made their decision on the TCP boundary. Some in town, including Town Planner Marcia Vlaun and Jones, the Town Council liaison to the Planning and Zoning Commission, had publicly said that while they were sensitive to Mohegan history and culture, the original boundary included much of the already built commercial area along Route 32. The revised boundary no longer includes the commercial section of town known as Montville Center.

Property owner and development team member Vlad Coric said that it wasn’t until affordable housing was proposed that the Tribe acted.

“They say spirits will be harmed. This area was extensively quarried in the 60’s. That wasn’t an issue when they built the second largest casino in the world or the power station. There was no assertion of TCP in previous projects. It’s interesting that now we want affordable housing in Montville and there’s a TCP,” he charged.  “And the core of the TCP has a turnpike running right through it. How can that be?”

 Tribe Chairman Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum wrote a letter to Patch in which he shared his sentiments.

‘No cost mitigation’

Jones said Coric has “offered a few no cost mitigation offers to the Tribe.”

Among those are a mutually acceptable archeological mitigation plan to avoid and preserve and or grant a conservation easement of “all stone features of concern” as well as an offer to a near half-acre around the stone features as well as grant pedestrian access for the Tribe.

“As you can see, the (Coric and developer have) a very strong desire to respectfully work with the Tribe to ensure preservation of the area of potential effect and remains ready to resolve any cultural concerns, amicably,” Joes said. “In the spirit of cooperation, this could truly be a ‘win-win’ for all involved entities.”

Villages promises to bring workforce housing and jobs.

Developers have said The Villages project would generate $1.5 million in new tax revenue and 100 construction jobs and 120 modern affordable housing units. The project received a DECD loan for pre-development work.

“Ultimately, this could be a win-win for all participants involved,” Jones said. “…(C)itizens, developers, local jobs, adjacent business, families and Tribe, and community. I hope it works out that way.” 

farm guy September 25, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Would you rather emulate Waterford and East Lyme or New London and Norwich? That is the ultimate question when you are considering low income housing.
jane September 25, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Is the project a cluster of apartment type housing or single/duplex units?
Dana McFee September 25, 2012 at 12:24 PM
This project will not generate $1.5 million in tax revenue (I wish it would, then I'd be onboard) it will generate $225k a yr. (see article Council Kills Tax Credit for Project) If 32 or more children live there, based on the cost per educating a child it will have a negative impact on the tax base. With all the vacant and inexpensive housing in the town, why the need for more affordable housing? I truly believe that once completed they will have difficulty filling the units which will result in lowering the credit and income standards thus creating "low income" housing here in Montville and all the problems that go with it. Maybe that’s the future the Mohegan’s see also.
Jill J. September 25, 2012 at 01:26 PM
The problem I have is the casino had the state in thier pocket. The other problem is they also have our council and mayor in their other pocket. Note how the council or mayor did not show at the public hearing or speak on the towns behalf. Must be because the council enjoys using the top floor free rooms at the casino. .
Ellyn Santiago (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 02:34 PM
To address some of the comments/questions raised. The Villages is not low-income housing and rents are not subsidized. It is classified as mixed-income, this story will describe that in more detail but suffice to say as stated by Planner Vlaun: median income is in excess of $80,000 to qualify for an 'affordable housing' unit.” http://patch.com/A-wx1w Here’s the story that Mr. McFee refers to about the requested tax credit the Town Council quashed: http://montville-ct.patch.com/articles/council-kills-tax-credit-for-housing-project The Villages http://villagesct.com/index.html consist of four buildings containing 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments and a community center. One developer is New Horizons a non-profit agency base din New Haven that, among other programs provides “affordable homes for working families.” http://www.nwnh.net/
lee September 25, 2012 at 09:22 PM
If the developer is getting money from the government to build these units, it's likely some of the units have to be available to welfare. The government has stated they want to people in the cities to be able to live in suburban areas..
lee September 26, 2012 at 12:31 AM
whoops!! meant to say they want the people in the cities to live in the suburban areas..
rosetta jones September 26, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Lee, The government also paid for the Housing, Banking, Wall street, and Automobile Industries Bailout...would you call that welcome, too? By the way, given the high cost of gas, many people are moving back to cities. Hopefully, that should ease some of your anxiety.
Ellyn Santiago (Editor) September 26, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Rosetta Jones reached out to say she meant to use the word 'welfare' not 'welcome.'
lee September 27, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Just because our Government messed up, doesn't mean we have to follow...Montville tax payers can't keep paying higher taxes because of what a handful of people want...Ms. Jones do you live in Montville? do you really care what happens to the people here ? People are moving out of Montville because of high taxes. Just look round at all the enpty houses up for sale. I don't see a big push to move into the city.
Ellyn Santiago (Editor) September 28, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Inexplicably, a comment from Town Councilor Chuck Longton that he tried to post at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 did not appear on the story. I don't know why that happened but I do apologize for that! Here is a transcription of Mr. Longton's comment verbatim and in its entirety: "$80,000 a year to "qualify" for "affordable" housing? That's well above the average income in this town. If someone who makes $80,000 a year wants to move to Montville, we have lots of "affordable" vacant properties already available for them to choose from, and some of them are really, really nice. We have lots of sellers who would be willing to work with them to find just the right one. A win-win for a property owner and a looking property buyer. And what Dana said, it will not generate $1.5 million a year in tax revenue and every new child who enters the school system past the much smaller "real" tax revenue will mean a tax increase on the town's residents to support that child's education." Chuck Longton


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