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In order to provide some relief to the developer of the Indian River Landing project, the Town Council voted to reduce the land-use fees incurred by the application for the project. The council will also consider granting the developers a tax abatement.
Indian River Landing is the name of the new mixed-use development planned for the site of the former Morgan School property. The project will consist of retail, a hotel, restaurants, and a large grocery store in addition to a public park. The project was approved by the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission last month with an anticipated opening date in fall 2021. The developer of the project is Greylock Property Group.
At an April 15 Town Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to reduce the land-use fees for the application from an estimated $30,000 to an amount to be determined.
Town Council Chair Chris Aniskovich explained that there is a formula in the town regulations and ordinances for calculating land use fees based on the square footage of a property. However, those fees can be limited so that the town doesn’t make an undue profit off of the application, he said, adding that the land use fees, as written, are sometimes in conflict with other town ordinances and state regulations that limit those fees. He said the town can only recoup administrative costs including the cost of noticing meetings, creating documents, and related activities.
The motion the council unanimously passed was to lower the fees to match the actual costs to the town as it reviews and processes the application, but that amount was not specified at the meeting.
The old high school property is nearly 37 acres and due to the substantial changes planned for the property, the land use fees would have been nearly $30,000, well over the administrative costs associated with the application.
“Should we have tried to collect that fee, it would have resulted in litigation,” Aniskovich said.
A reduction in fees is probably not the only relief coming to the developers from the town. The council tabled a discussion on whether or not to provide a tax abatement to the developers.
When building a new development, developers sometimes have limited capital at the beginning of the project. Developers often ask for an abatement until the project is underway and making money.
In fall 2019, the Board of Selectmen voted to adopt a new tax policy that town officials said at the time would create more consistency and transparency in the process of granting tax abatements. The policy allows for abatements for a period of up to five years.
Current Town Council member Christine Goupil, the town’s first selectman when the policy went into place, at that time said, “A key point to this policy is it does not reduce existing or current taxes, but can help ease the transition for an expansion or new developer’s future taxes.”
The town’s Economic Development Commission held a meeting on April 17 and recommended that the town grant an abatement to the developers for five years, while they seek tenants. No specific tenants have yet been named by the developers.
Aniskovich said the tax abatement would be a good way for the town to support an important project.
“The tax abatement is to the developer to help with his startup costs. We want to be amicable and we are partners in this,” said Aniskovich.
As for Indian River Landing, Ken Navarro, a representative from Greylock Property Group, said, “We are doing our best to keep things moving. We have a few approval hurdles remaining with [the Connecticut River Area Health District] and [state Department of Transportation]. They are moving slower than usual due to the virus. In the meantime, we are moving forward with engineering and design issues. We will try to use this period of economic slowdown to do our part to keep the economy going since construction has not been shut down.”