Stu­dent im­pact fee to gen­er­ate mil­lions

Boughton: Ma­trix re­de­vel­op­ers agree to pay to ease bur­den on over­crowded schools

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Zach Mur­dock

DAN­BURY — The com­pany re­de­vel­op­ing the Ma­trix Cor­po­rate Cen­ter has agreed to pay a hefty an­nual fee to Dan­bury schools to al­le­vi­ate con­cerns that hun­dreds of apart­ments planned at the site would over­bur­den al­ready crowded pub­lic schools.

The agree­ment is ex­pected to save a plan Mayor Mark Boughton said would have been a non­starter.

Boughton an­nounced the agree­ment, which he says is the first of its kind in Con­necti­cut, on Fri­day at his an­nual State of the City speech at the Greater Dan­bury Cham­ber of Com­merce lun­cheon .

“We’re proud that we’ve been able to work on an agree­ment that is fair, that is just and that is go­ing to be the first one ever done in the state,” Boughton said. “We’re proud that our part­ners un­der­stand the im­pact their ex­tra

stu­dents might have on our class­rooms and have agreed to pay.”

Sum­mit De­vel­op­ment closed a $17 mil­lion purchase for the long-un­der­used, 1.2 mil­lion-square­foot Ma­trix build­ing in Oc­to­ber. The plan, to be called The Ridge at Dan­bury, calls for 400,000 square feet of res­i­den­tial units, 600,000 square feet of of­fice and re­tail space, and an­other 100,000 for a new con­fer­ence cen­ter.

Boughton’s “stu­dent im­pact fee” is en­vi­sioned as a per-unit fee on each apart­ment the com­pany based in the South­port sec­tion of Fair­field builds on the for­mer Union Car­bide cam­pus on the city’s west side.

The fee would raise about $550,000 in its first year, based on re­de­vel­op­ment plans, in ad­di­tion to its $860,000 an­nual tax bill, he said.

It will in­crease to

$650,000 and then

$750,000 over the next sev­eral years as the project is built and the city will reap the fee through 2039, per the agree­ment, Boughton added.

In ad­di­tion, the project will not use any tax-de­fer­ral in­cen­tives to com­plete the project and Sum­mit De­vel­op­ment will pay the fee up front, in­stead of wait­ing un­til the project is com­plete, he said.

“It’s fair and it gets a piece of prop­erty back on the tax rolls that’s been un­der­uti­lized ever since Union Car­bide left, es­sen­tially,” Boughton said.

Im­me­di­ately after the speech, Sum­mit De­vel­op­ment Pres­i­dent Felix Char­ney con­firmed the city and com­pany had been work­ing on the agree­ment, but he was un­avail­able to com­ment fur­ther on project fees or tim­ing. Boughton said he has been told Sum­mit ex­pects the re­de­vel­op­ment to take 2.5 years to com­plete.

The project still needs a series of re­views and ap­provals from city plan­ning staff, but the im­pact fee agree­ment will ease many of City Hall and school ad­min­is­tra­tors’ con­cerns about its ef­fect on the grow­ing school district.

States use im­pact fees to re­quire de­vel­op­ers to con­trib­ute a cer­tain amount of money for spe­cific pur­poses to en­sure the project pays for the pub­lic ser­vices it uses, such as roads, sew­ers or schools. Those fees are fre­quently built into state law and re­quire com­plex mod­el­ing and cal­cu­la­tions to de­ter­mine the amount a de­vel­op­ment should have to pay based on its ex­pected im­pact on town and state ser­vices.

The pro­posed stu­dent im­pact fee is far less for­mal be­cause no state law es­tab­lishes a for­mal pro­ce­dure for such fees, Boughton said. In­stead, city staff made a more gen­er­al­ized es­ti­ma­tion of about the num­ber of chil­dren ex­pected to live at the com­plex.

They plan to ap­ply sim­i­lar stu­dent im­pact fees to fu­ture, ma­jor res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment projects, Boughton said.

In ad­di­tion to the new fee, Boughton out­lined a series of ini­tia­tives for 2019.

The plans in­clude the city ac­quir­ing the First Con­gre­ga­tional Church of Dan­bury for a “nom­i­nal fee” in ex­change for main­te­nance and preser­va­tion. The parish would still use it for ser­vices, but the city could use the 800-per­son sanc­tu­ary space as a per­form­ing arts hall on other nights, Boughton said.

After a tu­mul­tuous year in which Boughton lost in a hotly con­tested pri­mary for gov­er­nor and re­cov­ered from surgery to re­move a be­nign brain tu­mor last year, he re­flected on end­ing the year on a pos­i­tive note.

“I’m alive and I’m do­ing what I love to do and I get paid for it,” he said. “It doesn’t get any bet­ter than that. Serv­ing as your mayor has been the high­est honor.”

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Mayor Mark Boughton de­liv­ers his an­nual State of the City ad­dress on Fri­day at the Crowne Plaza Ho­tel.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

MaryJean Re­beiro, pres­i­dent of NY-Conn Corp., re­ceives the Cham­ber of Com­merce’s Ce­cil J. Pre­v­idi Award from Mayor Mark Boughton at the cham­ber’s an­nual lun­cheon. Fri­day at the Crowne Plaza Ho­tel.

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