Tax break OK’d

Ware­house granted 7-year abate­ment deal

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Mill

CROMWELL — The Town Coun­cil en­thu­si­as­ti­cally ap­proved a seven-year, 100 per­cent tax abate­ment for a pro­posed 356,000 square-foot dis­tri­bu­tion ware­house last week.

Mem­bers, mi­nus ab­sent Coun­cilor Ed­ward Wen­ners, voted 6-0 to ap­prove the plan, which sev­eral said will open the North­ern Tier to devel­op­ment. The area is a band of so-far largely un­de­vel­oped land that strad­dles the Rocky Hill bor­der on both sides of Route 3, also known as The Shun­pike.

The North­ern Tier “is the jewel of the town,” Mayor Enzo Faineza said. His com­ment echoed the re­peated ref­er­ences to pre-in­de­pen­dence In­dia as “the Jewel in the Crown” of the Bri­tish Em­pire.

“This is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for Cromwell. This says Cromwell is open for busi­ness,” Coun­cilor Sa­man­tha Slade said

af­ter cast­ing her vote in sup­port to the abate­ment.

“This is a home run,” Coun­cilor Thomas Tokarz said.

The pro­posed devel­op­ment, which still must ob­tain ap­proval from the Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion, has been in the works for the bet­ter part of 18 months. Un­der the pro­posal, Scan­nell Prop­er­ties, a Min­nesota-based devel­op­ment com­pany, will buy a 28.77-acre par­cel of land from the cur­rent owner, Jack Gard­ner.

Scan­nell will then build the 32-foot-high build­ing and lease it to Arett Sales, a lawn, gar­den and out­door liv­ing sup­plies com­pany head­quar­ters in south­ern New Jer­sey.

The ini­tial lease is for 10 years, Scan­nell’s devel­op­ment man­ager Daniel Madri­gal told the coun­cil. Scan­nell has de­vel­oped two sim­i­lar dis­tri­bu­tion ware­houses in South Wind­sor. Arett has an op­tion for two five-year ex­ten­sions, Madri­gal said.

Arett also has an op­tion to ac­quire another 46,000 square feet, the com­pany’s Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Cathy Schap­pert told the coun­cil. The abate­ment only ap­plies to the build­ing, Town Plan­ner Stuart Pop­per said. The per­sonal prop­erty — fix­tures, fur­ni­ture and com­put­ers within the build­ing — and the land on which the build­ing would sit would still be taxed.

As­ses­sor Shawna M. Baron an­a­lyzed the abate­ment pro­posal fol­low­ing last week’s ap­proval of the plan by the Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion.

“I think this is a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment for the town of Cromwell and will in­crease our grand list,” Baron said Thurs­day.

At present, the land is taxed as farm­land, which yields $2,000 an­nu­ally, Baron said. How­ever, she added, the town is in the midst of a reval­u­a­tion and that num­ber is ex­pected to grow. Baron ex­pects to have a more con­crete num­ber of the land’s re­vised value some­time next month.

In the mean­time, Baron said ini­tial es­ti­mates are that the per­sonal prop­erty within the build­ing could yield as much as $44,000 in taxes in the first year alone.

Arett cur­rently op­er­ates out of a ware­house in Bris­tol, but Schap­pert said the com­pany has out­grown that fa­cil­ity. Mov­ing to Cromwell will rep­re­sent “a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment on our part,” he said. That in­vest­ment will in­clude $1.3 mil­lion just in rack­ing sys­tems, as well as ad­di­tional spend­ing on IT and se­cu­rity, Schap­pert said.

Dur­ing a ques­tion pe­riod that fol­lowed the pre­sen­ta­tions by Madri­gal and Schap­pert, Tokarz asked about the amount of truck traf­fic the fa­cil­ity would gen­er­ate.

Ken­neth Pak­los, the Bris­tol ware­house man­ager, said Arett does not own its own truck fleet, but in­stead re­lies on com­mon car­ri­ers. Pak­los, a Cromwell res­i­dent, es­ti­mated that fewer than 20 trucks would en­ter the com­plex on an av­er­age day. He ex­pects the num­ber of out­go­ing trucks to be in the range of 23 to 30.

The ware­house will op­er­ate on a single shift, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Pak­los said.

The abate­ment pro­posal had the sup­port of sev­eral mem­bers of the EDC who at­tended the coun­cil ses­sion.

“This is a build­ing block to de­velop our North­ern Tier,” EDC Chair­man Richard No­bile said, de­scrib­ing Scan­nell and Ar­rett as “No. 1 com­pa­nies.”

“This is a state-of-the-art dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­ity,” EDC mem­ber Jay Polke said, adding the abate­ment “is an in­vest­ment for the town in our fu­ture tax base.”

Deputy Mayor Richard R. New­ton, the dean of the coun­cil, de­scribed the abate­ment pro­posal was “a great way to get busi­nesses into town.”

Faienza, who sup­ports the project “150 per­cent,” said se­cur­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter’s re­lo­ca­tion is an an­swer to those who ask, “Why don’t we have any of the things that Rocky Hill and Mid­dle­town have?”

FedEx is build­ing a 500,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity in Mid­dle­town on the site of the old Aetna cam­pus.

But Coun­cilor Frank Emanuele Jr. said Faineza had the sce­nario back­ward.

“We’re not Rocky Hill or Mid­dle­town. This is Cromwell,” he said. “We’re not fol­low­ing them, they’re fol­low­ing us.”

Af­ter the coun­cil ap­proved the abate­ment pro­posal, mem­bers voted to au­tho­rize Town Man­ager An­thony J. Sal­va­tore ne­go­ti­ate with Scan­nell on a land swap on the site. Scan­nell would give the town ap­prox­i­mately two acres of land in ex­change for two acres of town-owned land that will help each party square off their re­spec­tive prop­er­ties.

Cas­san­dra Day / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Arett Sales of Bris­tol, a whole­sale dis­trib­u­tor of lawn, gar­den, home and hol­i­day items, has pro­posed build­ing a 356,000-square-foot ware­house on a 29-acre par­cel of land at the County Line Drive in­dus­trial park in Cromwell.

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