A once controversial piece of industrial property in New Milford has sold for $1.1 million, and developers are looking to create spaces there for light industrial firms.

Joe Wrinn, vice president of Goodfellow Ashmore Real Estate, which is part of Danbury-based The Goodfellow Cos., announced last week that his firm has brokered the sale of the 145-acre Sempra Energy property in New Milford.

Lynn Morse, president of Covenant Construction in Danbury, purchased the property, located at 237 Kent Road in New Milford, from Sempra affiliate Rocky River Power Corp. Morse and a group of partner/investors have formed J.P. Industrial Park LLC and plan to develop a business condominium and light industrial park in the future.

“We are glad to see this particular piece of property being put to good use. This sale is a great thing for the town of New Milford and gives closure to a lot of people. The property had been quite controversial in the past, but now it seems everyone can move on,” said Todd Payne, chairman of The Goodfellow Cos.

Morse noted, “There is a definite need for industrial space in New Milford and this sale serves two purposes. It increases the tax base without increasing the tax burden, and it provides a location for smaller businesses to expand into. The property had been approved by the town for light industrial use back in 1987, but that permit has long since expired, so the process would need to be restarted. We are looking forward to developing this into a worthwhile project.”

When asked what his plans were for the property, Morse said, “Well, that all depends on the town, doesn’t it?” He added that he and fellow investors are in discussions with the town in order to determine the best direction to take, and what type of use will best fit the property and zoning regulations.

“The primary motivating factor for the purchase was the fact that this is the single-largest industrially zoned piece of property from the [Long Island] Sound up to the Massachusetts border on [Interstate] 7,” he noted. “Plus, the price was right. We knew that if we didn’t hop right on this thing that somebody else would.”

‘Finite Supply’

The property, however, hasn’t been the most popular piece of land in the past. Once owned by Sempra Energy, which had plans to build a power plant on the property, the site has been dormant for several years. The town of New Milford successfully killed the power plant plans, and Sempra had problems selling the property.

“Sempra tried to auction the property off about three years ago and nobody showed up,” said Morse. “The land has just been sitting there for quite a while.”

Despite years of inactivity, the site received interest from three prospective buyers within a 24-hour period recently, leading to the eventual selection of Covenant Construction.

“We’re probably going to be looking for new industrial uses for the site,” said Morse. “The front 28 aces is zoned for industrial business, which lends itself for all kinds of uses, and the back is straight industrial. We don’t really know where it’s going to go, but we know that it’s not a short-term project. This type of thing is probably going to take years to plan, although we hope not. But we’ve dealt with many towns before so we know how long this process can take.”

Regarding the area’s need for industrial units, Morse noted that in the 1980s a local developer built several hundred thousand square feet of light industrial condominiums and office space, most of which were in the 2,000- to 2,500-square-foot range.

“A lot of these businesses have outgrown their space and don’t have anywhere to go. There’s just no place for them,” said Morse, adding that there is another industrial condo development going up along Interstate 7 in New Milford, but nothing of the scale that he’s planning.

“The economical solution is to create commercial condos that are 5,000 to 7,500 square feet so that these businesses can now expand and stay in New Milford,” he said. “They don’t want to move south because the cost on the coast is extremely high, and the rents are just astronomical these days. These businesses want to stay in New Milford, but they don’t have any space yet.”

While waiting for approval from the town to create such an industrial park, Morse and his partners will be clearing the lot. Having previously been utilized as a gravel pit, the property is still strewn with steep slopes and loose rock – a situation Morse wants to remedy.

“We want to get in and clean the place up so we can get off on a good foot with the town,” said Morse, remarking that this is his first foray into commercial development. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

“There is a finite supply of industrial land in smaller lots,” noted Goodfellow Ashmore’s Wrinn. “The demand in New Milford is always steady as that area grows. We are encouraged to see new business being developed and look forward to the opportunity to be involved in the sale of the lots this project will create.”

The Goodfellow Cos., founded in 1934, includes REI Property & Asset Management, Apex Development Corp., Goodfellow Homes, Bridgewater Funding and Goodfellow Ashmore Real Estate.