Monday, October 5, 2015

Study: Winchester business park is feasible

Converting a former gravel pit into a business park is doable, but at a cost, according to a draft feasibility study.
However, the benefits of having such a facility would be the addition of potentially 2,000 jobs to the area and the lowering of the tax burden on residents, not to mention the boost it could give to the local economy, Mark Tigan, chairman of the Winchester Economic Development Corp., said.
The nonprofit organization has been managing the project, which has been in the works for about three or four years.
“We have a high poverty rate and high unemployment rate in Winchester,” Tigan said. “There are a number of people who are unemployed looking for better jobs.”
The Stone Mountain Business Park would help with fixing that, and with strengthening the nearby downtown area, which has already seen some recent investment, he said.
The study was paid for with a $12,000 Community Development Block Grant and funds left over from an economic development warrant article voters passed several years ago, he said.
He said the study, which is in draft form, not only stated that the business park was possible, but it was a good idea, albeit at the “cost of a few bucks.”
According to the study, the cost could be as much as about $4.6 million, or as little as approximately $1.2 million, depending on the approach town officials take developing the property. For example, town officials could decide to build one building to get the park up and running, which would put costs at the lower end of the spectrum.
The study was the subject of a public hearing before the selectmen last month. It included two options for building out the roughly 62-acre property — which is made up of multiple parcels — off Richmond Road (Route 119) for “environmentally friendly businesses and manufacturers,” the infrastructure improvements needed to make development of the site work, and how such a project would be financed at minimal cost to town taxpayers.
“There are a number of funding sources that are optional, and we’ve begun to look at those,” Tigan said. “I promised the selectmen it would not be their money.”
According to the study, which was prepared by Holden Engineering and Surveying Inc. of Bedford, the town-owned property is zoned commercial and could support more than 500,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space. The main entrance to the site would be on Richmond Road with a second entrance providing emergency access from Forest Lake Road, the study said.
The property, which is behind Musterfield Cemetery and Musterfield Park on Richmond Road, was taken by the town for unpaid taxes five to 10 years ago and abuts a parcel owned by Winchester Sand and Gravel, which is for sale.
The study presents a concept of constructing seven buildings on the town property ranging from 40,000 to 150,000 square feet for a total of 455,000 square feet. The second option proposes five new buildings ranging from 40,000 to 200,000 square feet for a total of 515,000 square feet.
Both proposals would require water, sewer and road improvements in the area, according to the study.
Tigan said the selectmen have accepted the study on the condition of public works and water and sewer officials look into the infrastructure situation.
The next steps for the Winchester Economic Development Corp. would include marketing the property with input from the selectmen, he said.
“Given the interest (the business park) is currently generating in two or three prospects, I’d say we’d probably see some action in the zoning or building permit process on one or two of the parcels within the next six to eight months,” he said.
Selectmen Chairman Roberta A. Faster said this morning that the feasibility study was exciting and board members liked it. However, if the project is going to be realized, it’s going to take a lot of money, and would likely have to be done slowly and in stages, she said. Selectmen are hopeful the project can be funded by grants and other avenues of funding that don’t involve town taxes, she said.
“Right now this is all new to us,” she said. “This is a process, and we’re figuring out where to start.”
She said she expects selectmen to begin discussing the matter soon, and residents are welcome to attend the board’s meeting to offer questions and input. She doesn’t foresee any town meeting warrant articles at this time, she said.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the Winchester Economic Development Corp. was one of five organizations in New Hampshire to receive the agency’s Rural Business Development Grant. The grant the development corporation received was $47,000 to provide technical assistance to small and expanding businesses in Winchester, according to a USDA news release.
Tigan said those funds will be used toward studying which types of businesses would be suitable for the business park, particular of agricultural nature. The grant would also look at in what ways the business park could co-exist and benefit the downtown.

1 comment:

Linder said...

Mark Tigan, chairman of the Winchester Economic Development Corp is the smartest person in the room. It will only work if you keep Maggie Sharra grubby hands out of the equation. I have several questions like, could this be the conceived plan of land grabbing Gus Ruth and the conservation committee as in taking property for taxes from hard hard working citizens like Terry Qualters and late Gary Chase for the betterment of the masses. Oh! What limits do we set on taking of people's property for taxes, up to and including "murder"!

What kind of tax deferment will we give these prospective buyers, like we did with Plum Pac. We gave them 5 years of tax deferment then when they threatened to leave we gave them more. Swanzey has beautiful commercial developments sites that set more than 3/4 empty. What can we offer? More low wage jobs. Do you think the occupants of The Lonely Hearts Hotel on Main Street wants work? If your one of them that thinks gravel pits, junk yards, asphalt plants, racetracks is an asset for a town then your a little soft in the loafers.