Mohegan plans could mean lower taxes for Preston

WTNH/Mark Davis

MONTVILLE & PRESTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Tuesday night, the Planning and Zoning Board of the tiny town of Preston is hearing details about the plan to finally develop the 393-acre former Norwich State Mental Hospital site.

The Mohegan Tribe, which operates the Mohegan Sun casino complex on their reservation across the Thames River, says all the pieces are finally in place to move forward.  The state sold this property to the town of Preston, population 5,000, eight years ago. If voters approve this looks like the plan that will work.

For more than two decades, the nearly 400-acre former state mental hospital site has stood vacant. One mega development project fell through as the state dragged its feet on removing decades
of environmental hazards like asbestos, lead, oil and coal. But now, the Mohegan Tribe says all the pieces are now put together for it to develop a $200 to $600 million non-casino resort.

“Development agreement that gives us the title to the land and then the primary focus at that point will be third party development on that property,” said tribal chairman Kevin Brown today announcing the deal.

They envision a complex designed to appeal to the non-casino public with a theme park, sports venue, hotels and retail. Governor Dannel Malloy announcing today that the state will finally complete the clean up with a target date a year from now.

“We have invested well over $9 million in this site. We’ve committed, and will be on the next Bond Agenda, an additional $10 million,” said Malloy.

The land will not become part of the reservation so all of the development will generate Property Tax revenue for the town of Preston. The project is so big that it could actually lead to lower Property Taxes for Preston residents.

“That’s certainly our hope. Our current Grand List is $387 million. This has the potential to double our Grand List,” said Preston Republican First Selectman Bob Congdon.

But will the Mohegans be able to do this if their push for a third casino in Hartford County falls through?  

“This is absolutely separate and distinct from the current pursuit of a third casino in Connecticut, so the answer is yes, absolutely,” said Tribal Chairman Brown.

This proposal could be on the ballot for voters in Preston as soon as next month.

That special Planning and Zoning Board meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday and it’s been moved to the Preston Plains School at the corner of Routes 164 and 2.

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