At their first meeting of the year last night, the New Haven Community Development Committee approved a series of measures permitting the development of privately owned land.
The committee voted to approve a petition to terminate the Land Disposition Agreement of 1970, a city ordinance that requires a downtown building to have affordable housing. The vote, city officials said, is in sync with Mayor Toni Harp’s broader plans for developing the city’s neighborhoods and downtown.
“The mayor is very clear that her goal is that the operations of the city treat each neighborhood equitably, and that we allocate our time to make sure that what we’re doing has impacts across the entire city,” said New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81.
One such neighborhood discussed is the area around 76 Sherman Ave., the site of a building that is still under a Land Disposition Agreement. The LDA mandates that 50 percent of the building be affordable housing and also gives the city the right to refuse any sale of the property. The building, which has 22 housing units, is currently owned by Deutsche Bank.
James Segaloff, a lawyer for Deutsche Bank, requested that the Board of Alders terminate the LDA, allowing the bank to sell the building to any buyer without interference from the city. Segaloff said the owners do not currently have any buyers in mind, though they are trying to sell the building.
Ward 6 Alder Dolores Colon, who sits on the committee, questioned whether current tenants would be notified of the changes resulting from the termination. Still, after deliberations, the committee voted to approve the proposal, pushing it to a full vote by the Board of Alders.
The next item on the agenda was presented by Director of the City Plan Department Karyn Gilvarg. The proposal would authorize Harp to sign easement documents for land containing the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway — a multipurpose bicycle path that was constructed over an old railway line. This would allow the city to further develop this public space on land that is privately owned and extend the path to the harbor.
The construction of the canal line has been a goal of the City Plan Department since 1999. The line currently runs 18 miles through the city, extending to Cheshire, Connecticut. The railway, which used to run from New Haven to North Hampton, Massachusetts, is used by many city residents to commute, Gilvarg said.
“I use the bike trail almost every day,” said New Haven resident Wendy Hamilton, who attended the hearing. “It’s a beautiful bike trail. If you can’t connect it with the harbor I’m going to use it anyway.”
The canal trail cuts through land owned by Yale on Temple Street, Hillhouse Avenue and Prospect Street. Yale has already signed easement for the public use of that land.
Another request came for the approval of access easement of land on 46 River St. The land has been used by the chemical company DuPont since 2002. The extension of the easement, which allows DuPont to conduct environmental cleanup on the site, was necessary for DuPont to continue to use the land until their contract is complete.
Colon questioned why the site had taken DuPont so long to clean up. Economic Development Officer Helen Rosenberg, who attended the meeting to propose the access easement, attributed the slow process to lack of funding, noting that DuPont had not yet received the $8.1 million needed to complete the project. She added that DuPont is in the process of applying for the funds from the city.
Near the end of the hearing, Hamilton gave a speech before the committee calling for the construction of housing for the homeless on the River Street Project Area.
Harp will deliver a state of the city address on Monday. By the end of February, Harp will present a budget for the 2016 year, Nemerson said.
Correction: Jan. 29
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Harp would announce the 2015 budget in February; she will be revealing the 2016 budget. It also incorrectly stated that Harp’s development plans extended to New Haven’s suburbs, which are not under City Hall’s jurisdiction. Finally, this version correctly names the cities on either end of the Canal Line: Cheshire, Conn., and North Hampton, Mass.