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West Hartford Declines Offer to Purchase UConn’s Former West Hartford Campus

The former UConn West Hartford campus, which includes 58 acres and several buildings, stands largely vacant. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The Town of West Hartford was given one last chance to purchase the former UConn West Hartford campus before the sale to Seven Stars Cloud Group, and the Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night to against purchasing the property.

By Maddie Geerlof

The West Hartford Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night in favor of the resolution to decline the University of Connecticut’s offer for the town to purchase the University of Connecticut’s former West Hartford campus and that action will allow Seven Stars Cloud Group, Inc. to continue with their agreement in purchasing the property.

Earlier this month, UConn received an opportunity to sell the property to Seven Stars for the purchase price of $5.2 million. As stated in a nine-page letter from Richard F. Orr, Special Counsel for UConn, to the Town Council members, UConn was not legally obligated to the offer the property to the town, as the town was previously offered the land for $1 million and voted against the purchase in December 2017.  However, UConn opted to offer the town their former campus again as a courtesy along the same terms and agreements as Seven Stars.

During a special meeting that was held on July 19, 2018, Councilor Dallas Dodge read the resolution aloud and noted the Town of West Hartford’s original entrance into an agreement with UConn to purchase the property back in July of 2016. After a “lengthy due diligence period,” said Dodge, that included multiple extensions, the council decided the acquisition of the property was not in the town’s best interest.

Reflecting on the original offer from 2016 Dodge said, “There was much more deferred maintenance … and most of the infrastructure is in very poor condition, and in some cases it is even unusable and even beyond repair.”

Prior to the meeting, Dodge said that the vote Thursday night was just about the town matching the offer by Seven Stars to purchase the property “as is” for $5.2 million. “In light of the unresolved environmental issues that were uncovered over the past few years, I do not believe this is an appropriate liability for the town to take on and will recommend that my fellow councilors also vote against matching the offer,” he said in advance of the meeting.

Once again, as expected, the Council expressed that it was not in the best interest of the town to acquire the land. Under the purchase and sale agreement with Seven Stars Cloud Group, executed on July 10, 2018, UConn will sell the 58-acre property to Seven Stars for $5.2 million with a 10 percent deposit. Seven Stars, according to the letter the town received from UConn, has already made that deposit. In addition, the buyer would have to purchase the property “as is” and be responsible for all cleanup of PCBs and “all other environmental matters,” as stated in the letter to the council.

Other terms of the agreement with UConn include the buyer’s responsibility to purchase an Environmental Pollution Legal Liability insurance policy, and be responsible for paying premium up to $250,000.

Seven Stars agreed to all of the preceding terms of the purchase.

During his comments Thursday night, Dodge said,“I want to welcome Seven Stars to the Town of West Hartford,” and shared how proud he is of the town for having the allure to attract an international company to the community.

Dodge also shared that he believe Seven Stars will be a beneficial addition to the town, and encouraged the company refer to the community vision statement during their development proposals.

After Dodge’s remarks, Deputy Mayor Beth Kerrigan, who sat in for Mayor Cantor who, as a member of UConn’s Board of Trustees has recused herself from discussions about the property, moved to adopt the resolution to decline the university’s offer and allow Seven Stars Cloud Group, Inc. to purchase the property.

The meeting, which lasted only 13 minutes, concluded with the council’s unanimous vote.

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Maddie Geerlof

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