West Hartford Debates Fate of UConn Campus

It was standing room only at West Hartford Town Hall Monday night, as officials presented proposals and debated the options of what to do with the 58 acre property UConn is leaving in 2017.

From office space to apartments to open space, a lot of options were discussed, but town officials say most of them are not feasible financially. The zoning issues and wetlands on the property make it extremely difficult.

There is an offer for $12.6 million from China’s Weiming Educational Group to use the land for an international school. Town officials believe the for-profit school would bring beneficial tax revenue.

“If indeed the school opens up there, it’s like a half million dollars in taxes to the town every year,” Jeff Smith, of West Hartford said.

The students would also complete part of their education at a public school, and the town could charge them tuition. The concept does not sit well with some parents.

“I don’t feel like West Hartford should be for sale,” Rick Bush, of West Hartford said. “Selling our spots in public schools sets a bad precedent.”

There is also concern that the influx will leave their current students competing for resources.

“They’re not going to be the dumb kids,” Bush said. “They’re going to be the smart kids and they’re going to be competing directly for classroom time and teacher time.”

Supporters say it would diversify the population and expose students to new cultures.

“I think that adding international flavor to the town and bringing students from all around the world is a healthy thing to do,” Joel Gordes said.

The town still has a few more weeks to decide whether or not to make an offer. Hours before the forum Monday, UCONN officials announced they were extending the deadline from next week until the middle of June.

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