Farmington, state near agreement on former Parson’s Chevrolet parcel
By Ted Glanzer
FARMINGTON – After years of discussions and negotiations, the town and the state are close to determining the fate of the former Parson’s Chevrolet parcel at the entrance to the town on Route 4.
Under an agreement hammered out between the town and the state, which owns the 2.54-acre parcel, the town will acquire the property located in the Farmington Village Center for just $1,000, provided that the property is used for modified open space.
The state had asked for $2 million for the parcel if it was going to be used for commercial development, according to Town Council Chairman C.J. Thomas.
In early 2020, the town solicited requests for proposals from commercial developers for the redevelopment of the parcel but there were no responses.
In the future, if the town decides to use the parcel for commercial development, then the state and the town will re-enter negotiations for a “much” higher price, Town Manager Kathy Blonski said during a presentation in February.
The town redesigning the parcel’s use “is not likely to happen,” Thomas said in an interview. “There’s commercial development next door. There’s no reason for” the Parsons property to be used in that fashion.
One idea recently floated for the modified open space use once the town acquires the land is to have a historic district welcoming center.
The next step is for the state legislature to approve the deal, which is expected to happen, Thomas said. After that, a new committee will be formed to design what will be on the site, Thomas said.
The breakthrough in negotiations and determination for the parcel’s future comes six years of work - including three by the Farmington Village Center Committee, which developed recommendations to the Town Council for the land, as well as an ad hoc committee formed by the Town Council in July 2020.
The ad hoc committee, led by Blonski and Town Economic Development Director Rose Ponte, presented its formal recommendations to the council at the council’s Feb. 9 meeting.
Blonski summarized the painstaking work that went into determining the parcel’s future, which included a holistic study of the village to create the concept of a town gateway along Route 4.
Ponte, at the February meeting, said she and other committee members were “surprised” the town didn’t receive and respondents to the RFP for redeveloping the Parsons parcel. She reached out to some developers to ask why the parcel wasn’t an appealing option, and received differing responses, including there were concerns over potential environmental issues (in August 2020, an environmental consultant determined that the Parson’s property was environmentally clean); an easement runs through 30% of the property; and the relatively small size of the parcel and need for public parking in the area.
In addition, the town’s desires for the property –such as not negatively contribute to traffic and relatively low density of development sought – was such that developers felt they couldn’t take the risk to make it profitable, Ponte said.
All of that made the state’s asking price made it such that the $2 million price tag wasn’t appealing to the town.
Thomas said the acquisition of the property for such a low price is a terrific development for the town.
“Through negotiations and through concept Open Space, acquire this $2 million parcel for $1,000 is an incredible win,” Thomas said. Coupled with $2 million grants to put sidewalks in on Main Street from Farmington Avenue to Highland Park Market is a tremendous win for Farmington Center.”
The acquisition of the Parson’s property is a major piece of the town’s yearslong effort to redevelop the 40-acre area that is bisected by Route 4 near the Farmington Historic District.