Student impact fee to generate millions
Boughton: Matrix redevelopers agree to pay to ease burden on overcrowded schools
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.”
Mayor Mark Boughton delivers his annual State of the City address on Friday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
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.