WESTFIELD – The City Council voted last week to authorize Mayor Daniel M. Knapik to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the Westfield Redevelopment Authority, a quasi-private developmental agency acting for the city.
Ward 2 City Councilor James Brown, chairman of the council’s Legislative & Ordinance Committee, said the council approved the city’s 2013 fiscal year budget, which includes $82,700 for the WRA for specific development projects.
“We’ve already allocated the funding for the Airport Industrial Park Project,” Brown said. “They need that money to begin full construction.”
Ward 5 Council Richard E. Onofrey Jr., chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, said that while the funding for the Airport Industrial Park project was included in the present budget, the WRA needs the municipal agreement to access that money.
“It does not make sense to approve that, have that money sitting there, but they can’t access it without this MOU,” Onofrey said. “I urge all of my fellow councilors to support this resolution authorizing the mayor to negotiate and execute this agreement.”
City Advancement Officer Jeff Daley, who also serves as the WRA Board’s executive director said the city “needs to have a financial agreement with the WRA to release the funding for pre-development work of the proposed Airport Industrial Park.”
“As the WRA Board of Directors’ executive director, this MOU will allow the board to authorize hiring agents, an attorney to do the deed research, which is complicated because of the multiple parcels, most of which are already owned by the city, but which need to be defined,” Daley said.
Much of that property was acquired through the Federal Aviation Administration, which puts conditions and restrictions on its use. Daley said one option might be to reimburse the FAA for the money used to purchase the land.
“That is one of the reasons we want to hire an attorney, to look at all of the available avenues and identify the clearest path,” Daley said.
Those options include leasing or selling the land to prospective tenants.
Daley said the park would also have to undergo design and engineering.
“The board will also need to hire a surveying/engineering consultant to begin the initial design and layout work,” Daley said. “This is a pretty straight forward project, which, depending on funding, we hope to begin in the next year or so.”
The project is being supported by infrastructure improvements now underway as part of the Airport Industrial Road reconstruction effort.
“It will be pre-developed in terms of having water, sewers, power and a road available,” Daley said. “Having those facilities available knocks off a lot of the pre-development cost of that park.”
Daley said the WRA has a goal of bringing the project to the point where potential tenants can see the land, select a site and begin the process of securing permits.
Daley said the WRA, and city, are looking to attract aviation-related, manufacturing and commercial office tenants.
“There will be no large scale distribution centers,” Daley said. “I want to have it as shovel ready as possible.”
To see video of the August 17 City Council meeting, click here.