WINCHESTER — The vision of town officials is for a cluster of businesses to fill a former gravel pit off Richmond Road.
Whether that vision can be made a reality is what town officials and a local economic development corporation hope to soon find out.
The Winchester Board of Selectmen agreed last week to let the town submit an application for $12,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to support a feasibility study of building a business park on the roughly 44-acre site.
The property, which was taken by the town for unpaid taxes roughly four years ago, is behind Musterfield Cemetery and Musterfield Park. An access road connects the site to Richmond Road (Route 119).
Voters at town meeting a few years ago agreed to change the property’s zoning status from agricultural to commercial.
If the federal funding is approved, the study would include surveying residents about the business park proposal and building a community consensus; determining the total square footage that could be built on the site; and the cost of installing and connecting infrastructure such as roads and utilities, Mark Tigan, interim chairman of the Winchester Economic Development Corp., said Friday.
“This proposal has sort of been smoldering for over two years, and now seems to be gaining momentum and interest in part due to the improving economy and interest rates staying low,” he said.
The nonprofit development corporation is working with the selectmen and the Winchester Revitalization and Economic Development Committee on the project, which is being called the Stone Mountain Corporate Park for now.
The Community Development Training Institute of Worcester, Mass., is also assisting the town with the proposed project, according to a news release from the Winchester Economic Development Corp.
The idea for the park originated with the revitalization and economic development committee. But as a town committee, it’s limited in what it can do to the develop the property, Margaret A. Sharra, a member of the committee and Winchester land use administrator, said this week.
The Winchester Economic Development Corp. formed as a spin-off from the committee, and has since been at the forefront of trying to find ways to develop the former gravel pit, she said.
A business park makes sense for the site, as the area is wide open, and has access to town water and sewer, and three-phase power, she said.
“We’re really excited about it. Winchester, like many communities, is struggling, and would like a better economic base,” she said.
A business park would help with that, and bring more jobs to the town, she said.
The feasibility study is one of many steps in the process that may eventually result in the business park becoming a reality, she said.
Besides focusing on just the former gravel pit, a feasibility study would likely look at including abutting properties, such as a parcel owned by Winchester Sand and Gravel, which is for sale, Tigan said.
“I think it’s in the best interest of that seller, the town and town residents to look at the whole area comprehensively, and try to do a master plan so that all uses are compatible,” he said.
He added that such a scenario would allow the town to look at the total environmental and traffic impacts, and determine the pros and cons all at once of a build out of the area.
Town officials expect to learn about the fate of the feasibility study grant application later this year.