MANSFIELD, Conn. —
Mansfield town leaders said they are feeling blindsided over the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees' recent vote to purchase land near Mansfield's Four Corners.
The land in question is 19 acres and one house at the intersection of Route 44 and Route 195. It's adjacent to other UConn property known as the Tech Park area.
The town said that UConn's purchase will stunt Mansfield's growth potential with affordable housing and future tax revenue.
“We estimate that Mansfield will lose more than $2 million in annual tax revenue from this project, and that loss will be felt by every taxpayer in our community," Mayor Antonia Moran said.
But UConn argued that the purchase would help protect a sensitive environmental area. The university said the purchase would expand UConn’s buildable Tech Park area and lift building restrictions.
Originally planned for the land were apartments which the town said was a priority for them.
“The Villas at Four Corners project would have gone a long way to relieving some of this pressure on our neighborhoods,” Moran said.
The project would have included over 360 family units with 45 of them marked off as affordable housing, something the town said is badly needed for the area.
Mansfield's Affordable Housing Plan said that there is a high demand for student rental housing, which had led to the construction of hundreds of new units in the area. But, despite the developments, the town said that the rental demand continued to exceed the supply.
According to the town, many low and moderate-income housing has been priced out due to their inability to compete with students. They said that new, protected affordable units can help the town maintain a balanced population that provides "diverse housing choices for students, university faculty and staff, young adults, families with children, and seniors".
UConn did not address the town’s concerns in their statement to FOX61.
The university said they had appealed a decision made by the Mansfield Inland Wetlands Commission that would have let the units be built, citing nearby vernal pools as their cause for concern. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said vernal pools serve local ecology purposes, and that climate change is threatening their existence.
UConn said that state guidelines specify developments cannot be within 750 feet of one of the pools. Due to that, the radius for the nearby pools in Mansfield overlaps both the development project and UConn's adjacent land.
"UConn was deeply concerned about the potential impact of the proposed large and dense development on an environmentally sensitive vernal pool on its adjacent property, and the restriction and reduction in potential development that would have resulted on UConn's Tech Park Parcel B," the school said in a statement.
UConn said they settled the appeal with the company tasked with building the apartments, Capstone Collegiate Communities, amicably. However, Mansfield officials and residents are still upset.
Town officials noted that UConn’s purchase bites into Mansfield’s inventory of properties that can be developed. Four Corners is an area that both the town and state have identified as an optimal location for growth.
“There are additional development proposals in the pipeline in the Four Corners region. I am very concerned that this portends future interference in town business," said Moran.
The town said UConn owns more than 1,400 acres of land within the Opportunity Zone, and two of the four “focus areas," Tech Park and Depot Campus, are owned by UConn, leaving the town just a few areas for prime commercial development.
Moran announced that the town is exploring all their options to challenge this decision.
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