The town council has approved a $1.4 million tax abatement to aid a developer looking to build apartments on the Silas Deane Highway.
The former Fun Zone property at 1178 Silas Deane Highway, which has been vacant for 20 years, was earmarked in the town’s master plan for redevelopment.
“We were looking for a high profile project and this couldn’t be any more high profile,” Town Planner Peter Gillespie said. “It satisfies a housing demand in the community. It takes a blighted property and converts it into a positive, tax generating property.”
The six-year tax abatement was approved 8-0 by the council Monday night, with Councilman Mike Hurley abstaining.
With the abatement in place, Lexington Partners LLC will build 111 market rate apartments, plus restaurant space on the first floor. Apartments will range from studios to three-bedroom units.
“The Borden”, as the building will be known, is expected to draw younger residents to Wethersfield and drive up the town’s grand list once the tax abatement period ends.
“When it comes online, it will be in the top five taxpayers in town,” Gillespie said. “It immediately goes to the top.”
During construction, the developer will pay taxes on the property. According to documents filed with the town, Lexington Partners expects to start construction next month.
During public comment before Monday’s town council meeting, many residents expressed approval of the project.
“I’m support of the Borden project and the tax abatement we’re talking about,” resident Steve Walsh said. “At first blush, it doesn’t appear that there’d be an additional cost, it’ll grow the grand list.”
Resident Tom Mazzarella, who is running for town council on the Republican slate in November, said he wasn’t sure the town should be forfeiting tax revenue during difficult budget times.
“Can we really afford to give up this kind of revenue when we don’t know if we’ll be able to meet out obligations?” he asked. “I would suggest you reject this proposal and renegotiate a better deal for the Wethersfield residents.”
Some town councilors also expressed apprehension about passing a tax abatement without a state budget in place and with local elections just three weeks away.
“I believe wholeheartedly to see Wethersfield prosper we need economic development. But I question the timing. … There’s too many unknowns,” Republican Councilman Mike Rell said. “Let’s give the next council a chance to weigh in.”
Democratic Mayor Paul Montinieri, who is not running for re-election in November, said he wished the project could have been done sooner.
“The timing is not in our control,” he said. “I would have done this in April, but it was not meant to be. This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democrat win, it’s a win for our town.”
Deputy Mayor Steve Barry called the project a “win-win” for the town.
“It’s a no brainer that we should act on this tonight,” he said.