Although it’s been some weeks since the Small Business Administration and the state’s Department of Environmental Management announced they reached an agreement for the sale of the remaining 80 acres of Rocky Point for $9,650,000, according to court documents filed last Wednesday, a closing is still projected for January.
That has state and city officials hopeful that the next step in acquiring the former amusement park is close to completed and that the process of planning how the park will be developed can start.
Mayor Scott Avedisian would like to see four or five options “so we don’t get off on issues that are impossible.” He’s heard some of those possibilities, such as bringing back all the rides and building an aquarium on the property.
Avedisian sees a public discussion of how the park should be developed with the non-profit Rocky Point Foundation that backed a state bond issue providing $10 million for the park purchase. The foundation has been awarded a $5,000 legislative grant introduced by Sen. Michael McCaffrey to conduct sessions soliciting proposals for the property.
Avedisian said it is important that DEM identify its needs and the possible park amenities. He wants to ensure that the park generates enough revenue to sustain operations, whether this is some form of concession or lease.
“We need to be serious about making it work,” he said.
Personally, the mayor would like to see as much of the property preserved. “Colt State Park is a great example,” he said.
“I’m pleased to see this next step. At each stage we’ve celebrated making progress, and now in front of federal court where it needed to go,” DEM director Janet Coit said yesterday.
While planning the park’s future is on Coit’s agenda, her first objective, once the state has bought the property, is to clean it up and offer the public safe access.
“If all goes well, we’ll be in cleanup phase this spring,” she said. She put cleanup costs in the range of seven figures, adding that her office is well equipped to coordinate that effort. “We expect to be hands-on with that piece.”
As the court-appointed receiver, the SBA filed a motion in Federal District Court seeking approval of the sale. The motion says the SBA commissioned three appraisals of the property and that in compliance with regulations the sale is for not less than two-thirds of the appraised value.
It also says the SBA will publish notices of the proposed sale at least 10 days prior to the sale soliciting higher bids as required by the court. Conditions of those bids are that they meet the same terms and conditions agreed upon by the state and they are 110 percent of the state price of $9.65 million. That puts the price at nearly an additional $1 million that promises to increase by at least $2 million for back taxes owed the city. The City Council abated the taxes on condition the property go to the state, but not should it be sold to a private developer.
Also serving as a disincentive to private development is the condition that 55 acres of the property be left as open space.
Like the mayor, City Planner William DePasquale sees the advantage to a public-private partnership as a means of generating the revenues to cover the park’s operating and maintenance costs.
First, he wants to see a plan.
“If a developer were to acquire the property, we would require them to have a plan,” he said. DePasquale thinks the same should hold true for the state.
Observing that so many people have a special memory of the park, DePasquale said, “this is so much more than the typical open space.” He foresees a process where those ideas are solicited and vetted.
“We all have individual ideas and that’s exciting,” he said.
But critical, in his opinion, is development of a master plan that sets goals and timelines. Furthermore, he said, having a plan would assist in the application of grants.
“There’s a lot to think through,” said Coit. Yet she’s enthusiastic.
“It’s exciting to look at all the opportunities with an open mind,” she said.