Watch the video recording of this press conference. Go to https://youtu.be/R7ekDwmcnLI?t=299
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Town of Mansfield Outlines the Impact of UConn Trustees’ Vote to Purchase Properties at Four Corners; Purchase Cuts into Development Zone and Affordable Housing
MANSFIELD, CT JULY 20, 2021--Leaders of the Town of Mansfield hosted a press conference Tuesday to convey outrage over the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees recent vote to purchase three parcels of land near Mansfield Four Corners. Mayor Antonia “Toni” Moran announced that Mansfield is “exploring all our options” in challenging UConn on this decision, and shared that the Town is requesting correspondence and other materials through the Freedom of Information Act to get to the bottom of the sudden acquisition.
UConn’s recent purchase of 19.23 acres, including 14.8 acres within an area zoned for higher intensity mixed commercial and residential uses, removes the parcels from the Town’s tax rolls permanently. This move has a long-range impact on the local economy and housing market, and undermines years of collaborative planning between the Town of Mansfield and UConn on managing productive development.
“As a result of that sale, on July 13, 2021 Capstone Collegiate Communities’ withdrew its application before the Town of Mansfield for The Villas at Four Corners, a plan to build 358 units of multi-family housing on these parcels,” said Mayor Moran. “The sale of this land was recorded yesterday.”
“We were blind-sided by this vote,” said Mayor Moran. She shared that UConn’s decision to purchase these properties has far-reaching implications for Mansfield and is a direct affront to Mansfield residents--including tax revenues, tax rates, housing stock and fulfillment of the Affordable Housing Plan. She added, “We cannot understand why the UConn Trustees agreed to this purchase. The implications are serious.”
These properties are located in the federally designated Opportunity Zone, the largest in Connecticut, in which both UConn and Mansfield have collaborated on marketing.
Mansfield officials expressed that UConn’s purchase of these properties impacts provision of Affordable Housing in the community, a priority for Mansfield and Connecticut. The proposed plan developed by Capstone to provide additional housing was in direct support of expressed need by residents and businesses in the region, including the university in support of its Tech Park growth planning. The proposed project included 30 units that would have been affordable to residents at 80% of median income and 15 units affordable to residents at 120% of median income. Additionally, the
project proposed a donation to the Eagleville Green Affordable Housing project of more than $1.4 million under the density bonus provisions of the Zoning Regulations. Eagleville Green is a planned residential development containing 42 mixed-family residential units coordinated through the Mansfield Non-Profit Housing Development Corporation.
It is estimated that approximately one-third of students choose to live off-campus or commute. As Mansfield’s Affordable Housing Plan describes, “High demand for student rental housing has led to the construction of hundreds of new rental units in Downtown Storrs and southern Mansfield. However, rental demand continues to exceed supply. Over the past ten years, rents have increased at a much higher rate than household incomes and many formerly owner-occupied single-family homes have been converted into rentals. Many low- and moderate-income households have been priced out of rental units in Mansfield due to their inability to compete with students. Increasing the number of protected affordable units can ensure that Mansfield maintains a balanced population that provides diverse housing choices for students, University faculty and staff, young adults, families with children, and seniors.”
“The Villas at Four Corners project would have gone a long way to relieving some of this pressure on our neighborhoods,” Mayor Moran said.
Town officials also noted that UConn’s purchase bites into Mansfield’s inventory of developable properties, particularly in an area that both the Town and State of Connecticut have identified as an optimal location for growth, and hurts efforts to grow the tax base and provide monetary relief to local taxpayers. 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. In contrast, the area of the Four Corners zoned for more intensive uses is approximately 94.3 acres of which approximately 16.4 acres are undevelopable due to the presence of wetlands. The purchase of the three parcels reduces the estimated developable area by more than 16%.
Together, the university and the community made a commitment to the Four Corners and the Technology Park for future growth that will benefit UConn, Mansfield and northeastern Connecticut. Often considered as “The Forgotten Corner” due to lack of investment and state services, this region is prime for real economic growth along the New York-New Haven-Hartford-Boston corridor
“By removing this key developable parcel from the heart of this zone--one of a limited number that has access to transit as well as sewer and water infrastructure – UConn has diminished Mansfield’s growth and opportunity for future tax revenues and affordable housing, and stunted the benefits of the $9 million sewer line investment the Town has made there in recent years,” said Mayor Moran. “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.”
Mansfield has made considerable investments to improve the community for the benefit of UConn as well as regional residents, including the Downtown Storrs development.
Mayor Moran says, “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.”