Divided Southington leaders approve tax break for Texas developer

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SOUTHINGTON — Town officials approved a tax break for developers looking to build a major housing and commercial development on West Street.

Texas-based Anthony Properties seeks town approval for eight residential buildings, two commercial buildings and a clubhouse off West Street. The 41-acre property is in an enterprise zone, making the development eligible for a seven-year tax abatement.

Concerns about the project’s impact on traffic prompted opposition from residents at recent Planning and Zoning Commission meetings. Those concerns carried over to Monday’s Town Council meeting where a majority of members approved the tax abatement but not without opposition from council leaders and debate.

The final vote was six to two in favor of the abatement.

Up to $1.8 millionin tax breaks

If the project is approved by the planning commission, Anthony Properties will get a 100 percent tax break on improvements to the land in the first two years of the program. That percentage drops in the subsequent five years when the program ends.

Economic Development Coordinator Lou Perillo estimated the project will result in about $2.5 million in new taxes for Southington. In the first two years of the program, the abatement will save Anthony Properties $1.8 million in taxes annually with the savings gradually declining afterward.

The tax abatement program is open to developers in areas designated as enterprise zones, a state program set up in the wake of Pratt & Whitney’s departure from Southington. The company’s closure of its Aircraft Road plant reduced the town’s tax revenues by 10% and left a huge building vacant in addition to other economic damage.

Credibility at stake

Perillo recommended the council approve the abatement, saying the land off West Street was a difficult one to develop.

Tax savings help offset the increased cost of infrastructure improvement, which include site work as well as road improvements to the West Street and Curtiss Street intersections.

Those improvements, which could include a dedicated turning lane for southbound drivers on West Street, are pending approval by the state.

The entrance to Anthony Properties’ development will be off Curtiss Street.

Perillo said denying the abatement to a developer building in the enterprise zone also sent a discouraging signal to other companies considering Southington.

“This is about credibility,” he said.

Increased housing

The 41 acres, owned by the Tolles family, is in the mixed-use transition zone on West Street.

The zone regulations set a ratio of residential to commercial square footage.

Anthony Properties convinced town planners to allow more residential, saying demand for commercial and retail space had declined since the pandemic.

The change prompted opposition from some Town Council members.

Paul Chaplinsky, council vice chairman, said the developers now want a tax abatement after changing how the land could be used.

“This was not just taking the existing zone and asking for an abatement. We changed the zone to suit the use,” he said.

Chaplinsky believed tax abatements are more appropriate for contaminated sites or other locations where developers are financially unable to build.

“I hear time after time from residents in our community, increasing residential density is something that they don’t want,” Chaplinsky said.

He and Victoria Triano, council chairwoman, voted against the tax abatement. Both are Republicans. The other Republicans and the council’s Democrats present at Monday’s meeting voted in support for the tax abatement.

Council support

Other councilors said the time to remove the tax incentive was before a developer had spent money on engineering and years going through town processes. Mike DelSanto, a council member, was reluctant to turn down a project that would increase tax revenues.

He was also worried what effect a denial might have on other developers.

“I don’t want to see future projects walk away thinking, ‘There was already a big project before and it wasn’t attractive enough for the Town Council,’” he said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission could take up Anthony Properties’ plan at its March 7 meeting.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ


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