Three-Year Tax Abatement OK’d For Retail/Office Complex

A Saint Patrick’s Day wish for a nominal tax break may generate a little green for two local developers and their future tenants.

The 146 South Main Street parcel that first received approvals for commercial development 15 years ago now appears to be fast tracked for groundbreaking in the coming weeks after officials endorsed a three-year program of partial tax relief under Newtown’s Business Incentive Plan.

Newtown Director of Economic and Community Development Elizabeth Stocker appeared before the Board of Selectmen March 17 addressing an Economic Development Commission recommendation to temporarily abate between 30 and 35 percent of the property taxes on improvements to be made as John Reyes and David Monaco of Summit Properties Group LLC develop a two-story mixed retail/office complex adjacent to a small bakery and tutoring center on the busy commercial corridor.

Ms Stocker said the new developers plan to generate approximately 50 construction jobs, and 10 to 20 permanent jobs once the property is occupied. Mr Reyes, who appeared before the selectmen said he envisions retail businesses occupying a lower level strip of storefronts, and medical professional tenants directly accessible from an upper level parking area.

She said depending on the project's scope, the EDC envisioned three years of abatements ranging from 30 percent on $1 million of assessed improvements, up to 35 percent if improvements are valued closer to $1.8 million.

Ms Stocker recommended the selectmen reserve endorsing an exact abatement in favor of approving the incentive within the range proposed and fixing an exact amount once all improvements are completed.

Mr Reyes told First Selectman Pat Llodra and Selectman James Gaston, Sr (Will Rodgers was absent) that he would apply the sum of the abatement toward the first three years of lease rates for his tenants, creating a temporarily below-market incentive to pre-lease the facility. He said pre-leasing would help secure financing that would fund the construction phase of the project.

The developer said the abatement would help him lower the annual lease rate by about $1 per square foot, per year for the duration of the incentive program, in effect, saving a tenant leasing a 3,500 square foot space about $10,500 during the first three years of occupancy.

During a brief presentation on the facility, which is being called The Summit @ Newtown, Mr Reyes said the project will include 75 parking spots and landscape renovations that would help improve safety on that stretch of Route 25, which is technically a state highway. He explained that as part of site preparation, he would be reducing and grading a rise that cuts sight lines for southbound traffic until they round a relatively sharp corner just north of the Citgo convenience station.

Deputy Land Use Director Rob Sibley told The Newtown Bee after the meeting that the modification would not only lower the grade closest to the roadway along that corner, but would also pull the elevation further back toward the hillside potentially enhancing safety by giving southbound drivers on Route 25, and those pulling out of the plaza turning north a longer line of sight.

The developer said he plans to begin clearing the parcel next week and breaking ground for the building as soon as possible.

Danbury Hall Demo Delayed

On other matters, Ms Stocker reported that demolition at Danbury Hall is temporarily on hold while the Town works with the demolition contractor regarding disposing of hazardous materials located at the site.

“Apparently there is still an issue with the Danbury Hall asbestos testing, and the low bidder is saying he still has to pay for (hazardous materials removal),” Ms Stocker said, adding that the plaster in question was determined to be safe and would not require special handling or disposal.

“That is a $38,000 change that is not in our budget,” Ms Stocker said. “I’m not sure if this means we re-bid this or just move on to the next low bidder.”

She said she will confer with the town attorney to determine the best way for the town to progress on the demolition “as soon as we can.”

On the issue of the Newtown Parent Connection, which is poised to lease and develop a new headquarters inside one of the old Fairfield Hills duplexes, Ms Stocker said the town is making progress. She said coordinating paperwork between the Parent Connection and the state Dept of Social Services is in process.

The town attorney is also finalizing a “subservient agreement” with the DSS, but the non-profit can begin its bid preparation process while the final details are being hammered out.

“We are further along,” Ms Stocker said.

During the meeting, selectmen also approved a donation to the Booth Library in the amount of $25,000 to help cover the insurance deductible following a flood that occurred earlier this year that closed the community facility for several weeks. The donation will come from a special Sandy Hook fund intended for undesignated expenses.

Selectman Gaston said considering the important role the Booth Library played during the post 12/14 recovery period, and that the library would have to tap its operating budget without the donation, he fully supported the motion.

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