Selectmen Okay Incentive Benefit For RV Dealership
On the recommendation of Newtown Economic Development Commission (EDC), the Board of Selectmen on March 15 unanimously agreed to a local business incentive program application for a northeastern recreational vehicle dealership that has designs on the former BlueLinx parcel at 201 South Main Street.
Just over ten years ago, a roof collapse signaled the end of an era for the industrial site that at the time housed several company vehicles and commercial stock for the building supply operation.
The property has been vacant since shortly after the collapse, and all the remaining structures were cleared from the parcel years ago. Since then, the 22.7-acre site has been on the commercial market for lease.
A 2020 listing indicates the parcel was being offered by Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT.
On March 10, the EDC met remotely with Layne Gregoire and Logan Gregoire of Country Camper, and Christal Preszler, Newtown’s deputy director of Economic and Community Development.
According to meeting minutes, Preszler explained to the commission that Country Camper is looking to build a facility for the sale and maintenance of recreational vehicles and automobiles at 201 South Main Street. She reminded members that at this point everything is in the preliminary stages, and seeking approval for the business incentive program is the first step in the process for Country Camper to determine if they will establish themselves in Newtown.
Preszler noted that the 218,000 square feet will remain paved, and if the deal is completed, the company is planning to employ between 15 and 45 workers. She added that Newtown is currently in a competitive situation with other towns in Connecticut also seeking to attract the business development.
Logan Gregoire introduced his father, Layne, who started the business in Vermont in 1996, and opened a second location in New Hampshire in 2018. They subsequently opened a standalone service operation near the Vermont facility.
He said Country Camper has a growing customer base in Connecticut, so they are considering a local expansion. It is one of the larger volume dealers in the northeast, with plans to expand nationally, Gregoire said, adding that the company has already partnered with Claris Construction “to show commitment to Newtown and to Connecticut.”
Gregoire noted that “Why Newtown?” has been a question that has come up often, and said based on the town’s geographic location it fits in with the Country Camper customer base and point of service. They have also heard great things about the town, and are planning to invest around $7 million if they decide to expand here.
According to Preszler, the current assessed value of the property is $1.2 million, which results in $43,000 taken in as real estate tax revenue. The estimated assessment post-development would be $5 million — an increase of $3.8 million, resulting in $173,000 in real estate taxes annually.
Newtown’s business incentive program allows them to be eligible for a 45% abatement on the real estate taxes, and a 1.15% multiplier for personal property, bringing their abatement percent to 51.75%. She reminded members that the abatement is only on the incremental increase in real estate taxes.
The base will remain taxed at 100%, so the town will never receive less in taxes than it does today. With the selectmen’s unanimous approval, the proposal now goes to the Board of Finance, and if recommended, on to the Legislative Council.
EDC Chair Wes Thompson commented that, based on his research of the company, this business will attract more people to that area of town and to Newtown in general.
On questioning from EDC member Steve Matiatos about the company’s ability to attract customer traffic, Gregoire replied that the location would draw customers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
On the subject of community support and involvement, Gregoire said Country Camper has donated Christmas gifts for children, donated to cancer organizations, and contributed to the Make-a-Wish foundation. He added that when COVID hit their state, the company reached out to supply the State of Vermont a discount rental rate on 27 trailers for the homeless.
When the contract ended with the state there was still a need, so a trailer was donated including some maintenance coverage. If a decision is made to come to Newtown, Gregoire said the business needs to be open at the beginning of 2022, because they sell more than one-third of their campers from January through March.
Country Camper currently operates in locations in East Montpelier, Vermont and Epsom, New Hampshire.
Check back with The Newtown Bee as this story develops.