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Selectmen Hear Grants Report, Approve Tractor Supply Incentive Benefit

Published: March 14, 2016

The Board of Selectmen received an update on Planning Department grants from Newtown Grants Coordinator Christal Preszler March 7, along with approving a Business Incentive Plan request for a partial three-year property tax abatement for developers of the Tractor Supply retail store soon to open off South Main Street.

According to Economic Development Coordinator Betsy Paynter, the development  at 116 South Main Street will include a 19,000-square-foot retail store and additional outside display space if the project proposal receives all local approvals as presented.

Ms Paynter explained that today, the parcel at that address is assessed at $223,080 and generates $7,377 annually in property taxes. If the proposed Tractor Supply store is completed as proposed, it will constitute a $3.3 million investment that will generate $111,062 in property taxes before roughly $300,000 in taxable personal property is applied.

She said developers are requesting a 45 percent tax abatement of the difference between the current and developed land assessment for a three-year period, totaling $55,000 per year. The project is expected to create about 14 new jobs, and is designed to enhance the South Main Street retail corridor while improving property values of neighboring parcels.

Ms Paynter said that Tractor Supply was previously looking at building in neighboring Monroe, and that the likelihood of qualifying for the Business Incentive Plan in Newtown helped capture the project.

Newtown’s Economic Development Commission vetted the company’s request and approved the 45 percent ratio in late January, Ms Paynter told The Newtown Bee before the meeting.

Economic Development Commissioner Wes Thompson appeared on behalf of his panel, reminding selectmen that the company did not request the full amount of tax benefit it was qualified for, and that the company is a respected national brand with 1,400 stores and more than $6 billion in assets.

“This is a well-run, community-oriented corporate neighbor,” Mr Thompson said.

The motion to approve the incentive was questioned by Selectman Herb Rosenthal who asked about plans to increase the store’s display area by retailing some stock from outside displays, noting that change in approved use has not yet been endorsed by local Planning & Zoning officials.

First Selectman Pat Llodra said she understood the developers were still exploring the best way to resolve any outdoor display issues to meet local requirements.

Ms Paynter said a lot of local horse owners and service professionals were looking forward to the store’s opening.

“This store is a nice fit considering Newtown’s agricultural heritage,” she said.

Speaking to the incentive, which will increase current taxation on the property seven-fold during the three-year abatement period, and by more than 12 times after the incentive plan lapses in year four, Selectman Will Rodgers said today’s “competitive environment” to attract commercial investors requires incentives like those available locally.

“Nicer in Newtown doesn’t do it anymore,” he said, “now we need to put a dollar sign in front of it.”

Selectmen then approved the incentive plan unanimously.


Grants Presentation

Ms Preszler’s segment of the meeting involved reviewing myriad Planning Department grants that are either being applied for now, are committed, are in the application phase, or are pending. She told selectmen that the Planning Department grants focus on four primary areas:

*Brownfields — a property where the reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance(s);

*Infrastructure — streetscape, water / sewer upgrades;

*Fairfield Hills related projects; and

*Supporting other group’s applications as directed.

In all, Ms Preszler is currently overseeing 11 grants totaling $2,299,448.

Projects include environmental remediation at the Batchelder property on Swamp Road; a CT DOT grant for sidewalk enhancement; open space acquisition; streetscape improvements and renovation of a duplex at Fairfield Hills; brownfield assessments at 28A and 7 Glen Road; and a small grant to improve the neglected Bradley Cemetery.

The planning office has another $800,000 in grant applications pending with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for environmental cleanup at Shelton House, Plymouth Hall, and Norwalk Hall at Fairfield Hills, and for contaminated property at 28A Glen Road.

A separate grant related to post-12/14 recovery is also pending for $442,434 per year for up to three years, if that grant is awarded by the state’s Office of Victim Services.

At that point, she was joined by Deputy Director of Planning & Land Use Rob Sibley, who reminded selectmen that the Land Use Agency recently added software technology to help ensure that each separate grant application conforms to requirements of the granting agency.

“A lot of these applications have a lot of moving parts,” Mr Sibley said, “and some of these application processes can take as much as 1,000 days.”

Following the presentation, selectmen motioned and approved the latest round of grant awards:

*A STEAP grant of $500,000 from Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management for Fairfield Hills streetscape improvements.

*A $1,380 Neglected Cemeteries grant from Connecticut’s Office of Policy Management for the cleanup of Bradley Cemetery.

*A state Transportation Enhancement Program grant that was part of a special appropriation of $904,000 to construct a sidewalk that will extend from the intersection of Glover Avenue, down South Main Street to Mile Hill Road, and then to the intersection of Trades Lane adjacent to the Reed School.

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