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Mashantuckets selling off land amid declining revenues at Foxwoods

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published August 09. 2014 4:00AM

North Stonington - The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe sold off 371 acres of mostly vacant land it owned on either side of Wintechog Hill Road for $1.25 million last month, and another 107 acres of tribe-owned land on Norwich Westerly Road is up for sale, town land records and property listings show.

The tribe, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino, acquired the Wintechog Hill Road property from 1993 to 1997, paying a total of $3,695,000.

According to listings with Collier's International, the global real estate company, the tribe is also seeking to shed 127 acres in Preston, 221 acres in Waterford and 248 acres in Hopkinton, R.I. The tribe has also sold a number of residential parcels in Led-yard, published land transactions show.

Some familiar with the listings speculated Friday that the cash-strapped tribe wants to generate revenue and relieve itself of the burden of paying taxes on the non-reservation lands it owns. Foxwoods' profits have declined precipitously in recent years.

Attempts to reach Mashantucket officials in regard to the land sales were unsuccessful.

North Stonington land records show the Mashantuckets sold a total of 360 acres at 118A, 118D and 135 Wintechog Hill Road to Wintechog Hill Farms LLC for $950,000. The appraised value of the property, which includes some buildings, totals $1,521,300.

Wintechog Hill Farms also bought 9.2 acres, including buildings, at 91-A and 91-B Wintechog Hill Road for $250,000 and a little more than 2 acres at 114 Wintechog Hill Road for $50,000. Together, the parcels have an appraised value of $480,300.

The land records show Wintechog Hill Farms is leasing the land it purchased to Firefly Farms, a North Stonington farm that practices humane techniques in raising rare breeds of chickens, pigs and cattle.

Van Brown, Firefly Farms' owner, said he was talking to the Mashantuckets about leasing the Wintechog Hill Road property when Wintechog Hill Farms entered the picture and negotiated a purchase. Wintechog Hill Farms' representative, Essex attorney John Senning, could not be reached to comment.

"We've got a really excellent, long-term lease," Brown, of Mystic, said. "It's pretty much a win-win situation for everybody."

Firefly Farms now operates on 135 acres on Button Road in North Stonington, a former YMCA campground Brown bought in 2011. The town disputed the purchase, eventually filing a Superior Court lawsuit that is pending.

The other listings of Mashantucket property for sale include 127 acres in the vicinity of Preston Town Hall at 373 Route 2, which the tribe bought for $2,850,000 in 2006; and 221 acres at 607 Mohegan Ave. Parkway in Waterford, which the tribe bought for $4.5 million in 1994.

A 247 acre parcel for sale in the Hope Valley section of Hopkinton, R.I., includes a golf course the tribe bought in 1997.

Property transactions published Friday show the Mashantuckets recently sold a half-dozen residential parcels in Ledyard. The buyers were tribal members who obtained the properties at auction, sources said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Twitter: @bjhallenbeck

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