NORWICH — During the Norwich City Council meeting on Monday night, the city unanimously approved the Business Master Plan District ordinance.
The ordinance allows a new kind of zoning in the city and allows Norwich to have more control over what kinds of business development comes into town.
The Business Master Plan District was proposed by the Norwich Community Development Corp. as a floating zone that could be applied to large contiguous tracts of land suitable for development as a business park. The land must be at least 100 acre and able to have appropriate road access and either underground utilities or on-site utilities.
The city is aiming to use this zoning to develop a possible second business park that would sit in the Taftville and Occum area on parts of Scotland Road, Lawler Lane, Canterbury Turnpike, and Bromley Lane. The Norwich Community Development Corporation is paying deposits on and has until Dec. 15 2022 to purchase the 272 acres for $3.55 million.
Norwich Community Development Corporation Chairman Robert Buckley said once this area is able to be parceled and sold, he expects a significant increase to the tax base with new businesses, more jobs, and more revenue for Norwich Public Utilities.
Buckley also said the possible business park site is important – he isn’t sure if there are any other commercial tracts of at least 100 acres left.
“One of the reasons the current location was chosen because it’s the last really sizeable tract of commercially zoned and developable land in the city,” Buckley said.
Various kinds of professional buildings would be allowed in the zoning area, including offices, computer software, hardware and other tech uses, manufacturing, laboratories, and truck stops. The new language added to the Business Master District Plan specifies that this is a non-inclusive list, and other uses can be deemed appropriate by the Zoning Commission at the time of application submission.
There is also a clear list of not permitted uses, including residences, self-storage, landscaping and construction laydown areas, outdoor storage of raw materials as principal use, vehicle sales, auto repair, non-truck stop gas stations, and junk yards.
Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said clarifying this matters because of a time a business wanted to put a “car husking” business within the proposed business park area.
“We state it right up front so nobody tries to apply or get a variance,” Nystrom said.
Alderman Derell Wilson said passing the ordinance isn’t a “rubber stamp” on any given project, and necessary processes still need to take place.
“We’re not getting rid of the way things are done,” Wilson said. “We’re still going through the process of other public hearings, and us reviewing applications before anything is approved.”
President Pro-Tem Mark Bettencourt also said that it may be getting ahead of things to think of the business park right away and rather understand the Business Master Plan District as “a tool in the toolbox,” for development throughout the city.
“If somebody puts together a pieces of property, a large enough piece, this could come into play with another development project,” Bettencourt said.