EDC Wants To Expand Business Incentive Benefits

The local Economic Development Commission is retooling the language and is seeking changes to Newtown’s Business Incentive benefits to accommodate more of the types of new enterprises the town expects to see developing in the coming years. First Selectman Pat Llodra has mentioned the EDC’s desire to improve and enhance the program during several meetings in recent weeks.

According to town Planning & Economic Development Director Elizabeth Stocker, the EDC wants to expand its coverage to more of the state’s allowed roster of ten uses eligible for benefits under the localized programs. The commissioners also will be reformatting language in the program’s preamble language to align it with the language of enabling state statutes, as well as to better articulate the program’s benefits to potential applicants.

“The program only allows for benefits to be extended to office, retail and factory uses now, although the state allows extending the benefit to ten different uses,” Ms Stocker said. “While I don’t see the local commission wanting to extend the benefit for things like stacked garages for mass transit parking and certain residential-based uses, there are several other eligible business categories the EDC would like to see included.”

Ms Stocker said that by referencing the state statutes in the local language of the program, it will permit the town to extend greater flexibility to applicants who are currently limited to receiving a benefit for up to three years. Commissioners hope to see the revised program provide up to seven years of benefits in specific qualifying cases where improvements or development increases the grand list value of an applicant by $3 million or more.

“Our goal is to increase the nonresidential grand list, and to make Newtown even more attractive for business investment,” she said, adding that if the changes are approved, each applicant will still be vetted for qualification on a case-by-case basis.

A cover memo supplied to The Bee by Ms Stocker states that the EC and its staff undertook an extensive review of other communities before making this recommendation. And the revisions will help Newtown in being “very competitive with other communities.”

The revised program maintains the existing schedule for fixing of assessment of real property; however it will allow the town to broaden incentives as allowed by state statute on a case-by-case basis.

The proposed revisions are outlined as follows:

*Revise the Preamble and Purpose to better articulate why the program is in place, emphasize the economic development focus for the Town of Newtown and incorporate a sentence that the program is broadened pursuant to State Statute Section 12-65b.

*Information technology, recreational facilities and warehouses, storage or distribution have been added as eligible uses for the business incentive program. Retail, office and manufacturing are the only uses that are currently eligible.

*Streamline the conditions of business incentives allowing the first selectman to sign off on changes to the work schedule rather than the Board of Selectmen.

*Add streetscape improvements to the physical improvement section.

Under updated language, incentives requested by the applicant may include physical improvements to the property and/or the fixing of assessment of real property pursuant to physical improvements and the one time town subsidizing all or part of:

*The paving of driveways or parking areas;

*Site preparation including tree/branch removal, grading, earth moving or removal;

*Street or road improvement including drainage;

*Hook-ups to water, sewer, other utilities;

*Infrastructure engineering;

*Correction of other physical problems, i.e., brooks, rock ledge, etc.

*Streetscape specific areas where specs are in place

The program also will provide a modest added benefit if the project entails a large amount of personal property to be added. Only properties located within a village or design district, a commercial, mixed use or industrial zone are eligible for this program.

The expanded provisions of the program would, upon approval, apply to expanded production and/or the capacity of a business including at least one of the included uses: office, retail, manufacturing, warehouse, storage or distribution, information technology, recreational facilities or research and development.

According to the updated preamble, the program is declared to be consistent with the Plan of Conservation and Development and the Strategic Plan for Economic Development of the Town of Newtown.

Economic development efforts will focus on new business development within the industry clusters of technology, communications and bioscience, the retention and expansion of existing businesses and the continued revitalization and enhancement of Newtown’s business centers and corridor including, but are not limited to, the Borough of Newtown, Sandy Hook Center, Botsford, Dodgingtown, Hawleyville and the South Main Street Village District.

Efforts will focus on job creation, promoting the redevelopment or reuse of abandoned or underutilized commercial and industrial properties and streetscape improvements within the commercial areas of Newtown. And as before, should payment for taxes to the town become delinquent at any time during the agreement period, the benefits will immediately terminate and the full amount of the tax that would otherwise be due shall become due and payable.

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