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Zoning change complicates Park City Wind’s Bridgeport plans 

Credit:  Brian Lockhart | ctpost | July 16, 2022 | www.ctpost.com ~~

BRIDGEPORT – Previously heralded by local leaders as “more than a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the city with thousands of jobs and more than a billion dollars in direct investment,” the Park City Wind renewable energy project’s construction phase has suffered a setback due to a local zoning change.

As reported recently, despite an announcement in May 2021 that Park City Wind had leased some East End harborfront property from the Bridgeport/Port Jefferson ferry company as a temporary staging area for its offshore wind farm, that deal is not finalized.

The exact reasons were at the time not made clear. But this week representatives with the ferry company and Avangrid Renewables, owner of Park City Wind, acknowledged a municipally-approved zoning change to the former’s 18-acre Seaview Avenue land – dubbed Barnum Landing – complicated the situation.

Craig Gilvarg, Avangrid’s communications director, confirmed that “recent zoning changes promulgated by Zone Bridgeport preclude Avangrid’s plans to establish an offshore wind staging area at the Barnum Landing site.”

“We were absolutely surprised,” Fred Hall, the ferry company’s general manager, admitted in an interview, adding, “It certainly narrows the focus of what we can do.”

Bridgeport Economic Development Director Tom Gill’s department over the past couple of years spearheaded Zone Bridgeport, an overhaul of the city’s zoning regulations and map resulting from the updating of Bridgeport’s 10-year master plan. There was first lots of public outreach, with the recommended changes finalized last year by the mayoral-appointed zoning commission and implemented Jan. 1.

But despite Park City Winds’ plans for Barnum Landing being public knowledge, the zoning there still got altered to emphasize attractive retail, commercial and civic uses, nixing Avangrid’s temporary, industrial-use staging area.

Gill said this week the zoning alteration to the ferry company’s Seaview Avenue land is “completely compatible” with that entity’s long-stated – and long-delayed – plan to relocate its operation from the South End and build a new East End ferry terminal and tourist destination.

“That’s still the project we’d like to see,” Gill said, adding, “We are working with Avangrid. We want to see that (Park City Wind) coming into the port, also.”

But with no ground-breaking on the new terminal planned for the immediate future, the ferry company in the meantime had intended to lease those 18 acres to Avangrid to help build Park City Wind, rather than let the site lay dormant.

Gill said city officials have been told by Avangrid representatives that the staging area issue “could be resolved.”

“We remain committed to making Bridgeport a centerpiece of the Park City Wind project while delivering significant economic benefits to the state,” Gilvarg said.

The ferry company and Park City Wind had also intended to include space at the former’s new East End terminal for a permanent operations and maintenance facility for the wind farm. Gill said that use would still be permitted because the activities would be indoors, with Park City Wind workers picking up materials to install out on the water at the wind farm.

“It’s not a boat yard,” Gill explained. “You won’t see them repairing things. … Picture it almost as if you’re going to an auto supply store to pick up parts for your car.”

Hall said he remains optimistic about that aspect of the ferry’s partnership with Park City Wind.

“We expect to continue the relationship with Avangrid,” Hall said.

Still, the loss of Park City Wind’s first choice of staging area seems at odds with the previous warm welcome city and state officials gave the project and its partnership with the ferry company. City Councilman Scott Burns, a proponent of environmental conservation and the green economy, said this week after learning of the zoning issue, “Did the one hand know what the other was doing?”

In November 2019, for example, Ganim co-signed a letter with a handful of other Park City Wind supporters, published by Hearst Connecticut Media, that called the project a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

And the May 2021 press release from Park City Wind announcing the lease for the Seaview Avenue site contained quotes of praise from Gov. Ned Lamont, his economic development commissioner, David Lehman, and Ganim.

“Today’s announcement is an important step forward in the state’s broader plans to capitalize on offshore wind energy’s vast economic opportunity,” Lehman had said. “It will bring jobs and additional economic vibrancy to the city’s waterfront.”

And the mayor said at the time, “Park City Wind will also offer immediate labor opportunities for our work force as they employ men and women in the construction trade at their Barnum Landing location.”

“I would hate to see us lose Park City Wind,” Burns said this week.

In a statement to Hearst Connecticut Media, Ganim said, “I am committed to helping Park City Wind just like any other business that is coming to Bridgeport and will continue to work with Avangrid.”

Lamont’s office deferred questions on the zoning/staging area matter to Lehman’s department. Jim Watson, a spokesperson for the state economic development office, wrote in an email, “The department has been apprised of these developments and continues to work with Park City Wind to help them with this important project.”

Besides Burns, other Bridgeport officials who have previously hailed the Park City Wind project were concerned when told by Hearst Connecticut this week about the zoning change and did not understand why it happened.

“You would think a major employer like that, the city would bend over backwards to accommodate or work with them,” said state Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport. “Is the city looking for alternative sites?”

And state Sen. Dennis Bradley, D-Bridgeport, another co-signer with the mayor of that aforementioned November 2019 letter, argued if the Ganim administration wanted to it could seek to amend the new zoning along Seaview Avenue to allow Park City Wind’s temporary staging area.

“People want to see we’re serious, when we make a commitment in Bridgeport we’ll see it through,” Bradley said.

Meanwhile Ralph Ford, an East End political leader, said that neighborhood is more interested in seeing the ferry company break ground on its new terminal. Ford added he has had doubts that Park City Wind will happen.

“We’re more than happy to have the ferry move and do a nice little mini-mall, maybe even some waterfront apartments,” Ford said. “To me that would be a better use of the land.”

Source:  Brian Lockhart | ctpost | July 16, 2022 | www.ctpost.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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