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City agrees to sell 57 acres for $1.45 million

Date: 1/6/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

CHICOPEE A special meeting of the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Michael Bissonnette on Dec. 30 resulted in the unanimous approval of the sale of 57.461 acres of city-owned property to the Westover Metropolitan Development Corporation (WMDC) for $1.45 million.

"I was pleased with the cooperation from the board," Bissonnette told Reminder Publications. "This sale allows the WMDC to piece together over 100 acres for an industrial park. It could bring in thousands of jobs and millions of dollars."

The recently sold land is in the area between the Airpark West industrial area and the Massachusetts Turnpike. With the other parcels the WMDC owns, this purchase will make up the only 100 acre contiguous industrial park in the region.

"It was land that was sitting idle," Bissonnette said. "[The $1.45 million is] bonus money for us. It could mean keeping 20 more police officers on the street, 20 more fire fighters working, 20 more teachers in the classroom [with the potential 9C budget cuts proposed for January]." The money will be going into the city's stabilization fund.

He told the Board of Alderman that the sale of the land was "a great way to end the calendar year" and that having an industrial park of this size would help Chicopee compete nationally and internationally for companies that need that land mass.

James Tillotson, Alderman At-Large, said that this sale was in the best interest of the city.

"I think this money is going to come in real handy," he said. "I think this is a good thing for us."

"That number [$1.45 million] is doing damn good for the city," Ward 7 Alderman George Moreau consented. Several other aldermen also voiced their approval.

At-Large Alderman Robert Zygarowski asked how soon the city would be seeing the money from the sale. Bissonnette said it should be paid by March and definitely before the end of the city's fiscal year.

Funding for the sale is coming through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) noise mitigation allocation to the WMDC. The FAA's funding would assure that a non-compliant use for the property, such as housing, would not take place, according to Allan Blair, president of WMDC.

Once the purchase is complete, the permitting process for WMDC to start building could take anywhere from 12 to 26 months. The infrastructure would start with the building of roads throughout the site.

"It's a difficult site," Bissonnette admitted. "The idea is to develop it correctly, not quickly."

Traffic to the new industrial park would be through the current access and egress points to minimize impact on residential neighborhoods, according to Blair.

The city is also looking at selling another 48 acres off Burnett Road to the state to be added to Chicopee Memorial State Park.

Bissonnette said these potential sales started being discussed after the city catalogued all the different parcels of land that were municipally owned.