Tax break OK’d
Warehouse granted 7-year abatement deal
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.
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.