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Ansonia Aldermen Approve Downtown Land Deals

by Ethan Fry | May 10, 2017 10:38 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia

FILEAnsonia Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to proceed with two downtown land deals that will move the police department to Main Street and open up two city-owned buildings for private redevelopment.

If all goes according to plan, the agreements could dramatically reshape downtown Ansonia — bringing cops to a much more central location within the city and, potentially, hundreds of new residents to downtown.

The Aldermen discussed the deals behind closed doors for about an hour during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday, which is permitted under the state’s Freedom of Information Act because it says public agencies can discuss real estate deals outside public view.

None of the Aldermen made any public comments before voting.

Mayor David Cassetti said after the vote that the city is “moving forward.”

The agreements concern four different properties and total nearly 50 pages of legal contracts.

Click here, here, here and here for previous stories with more background.

ATP/Palmer

The first deal approved Tuesday calls on Copper City Development, owned by local developer Jerry Nocerino, to pay the city $200,000 for the ATP (497 E. Main St.) and Palmer (153 Main St.) buildings.

Nocerino has long eyed the ATP and Palmer buildings for redevelopment into about 90 apartments.

As part of the deal with Copper City Development, the city has agreed to freeze the assessments of the Palmer building at $580,700 for seven years, and for the ATP building at $580,700 for three years, then $977,500 for the next four years.

The city also agreed not to charge the developer for building permits and land use application fees.

The agreement says Copper City must submit a “concept plan” for the properties by July 7, 2017, and submit applications to the city’s land use boards by Oct. 1, 2017.

If the city determines the project isn’t “substantially complete” within three years, the city could try to take the properties back.

Nocerino wouldn’t actually pay for the buildings until he gets approval for his redevelopment project from the city’s land use boards.

65 Main St.

The second deal approved by the Aldermen calls on the city to pay $3 million for 65 Main St. and a 50 percent ownership interest in a parking lot next to it currently owned by Shaw Growth Ventures, a New York-based company who obtained the property in a foreclosure case last year.

The city wants to move the police department — currently headquartered in a former school building more than 120 years old — and its senior center there.

The building once served as the headquarters for the Farrel Corp., but is now vacant. Shaw obtained the property through a foreclosure case last year from Washington Management, a company that purchased the property from Farrel.

In addition to the police department and senior center, city officials have said other city offices could possibly move to the building in the future.

The money for the purchase will come from a low-interest federal loan of up to $12 million approved by voters in a 2016 referendum.

The ballot question for the referendum said the police station would be built on Olson Drive, or perhaps another site if the city couldn’t build it on Olson Drive.

In the run-up to the referendum vote, several city officials also said the new police station had to be on Olson Drive to limit the amount of affordable housing that will eventually be redeveloped there, per an agreement with federal officials.

But after the election officials decided that actually building the police station on Olson Drive would take too much time. They said construction there wasn’t required in the city’s agreement with federal housing officials, as they said repeatedly before the vote that it had been.

Why The Rush?

During a public hearing last week a dozen or so residents who weighed in on the project were generally enthusiastic about the outlines of the plan.

But several also pointed out that the city hadn’t been as forthcoming as officials promised it would be with information concerning the proposals.

For example, Bill Phipps said that while he hopes the deal will work out for everyone, he also worried about “alternate facts that seem to fly around.”

“Nothing meshes,” he said. “It leads to a lot of agita — a lot of unnecessary concern. I think we’ve all got to be thinking in the same line and the only way we can do that obviously is with the same common facts.”

The city has been inconsistent about releasing information about the proposals.

For example, when city officials first outlined the proposals last month they said the contracts for the deals would be available to the public in advance of public hearings on them — though they were under no obligation to do so.

The agreements were not released before the hearings occurred.

The city’s corporation counsel, John Marini, handed out copies after Tuesday’s vote.

The documents are embedded below. Several blank sections will be completed as the city does its “due diligence” and finalizes the deals, Marini said Wednesday.

Dave Knapp, the chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, said that details of the agreements should be spelled out to the public before Aldermen vote on them.

Knapp brought up his concerns during the public portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

Phil Tripp, the Board of Aldermen’s president, told Knapp that Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director and grants writer, as well as John Marini, the city’s corporation counsel, would be giving a presentation during Tuesday’s meeting with more information.

Click play on the video below to see Tuesday’s Aldermen’s meeting. The presentation by O’Malley and Marini, concerning mostly parking issues, occurs around the 1-hour, 18-minute mark.

Cassetti: Time Is Of The Essence

After Tuesday’s vote, the Valley Indy asked Mayor Cassetti why the Aldermen voted without the contracts being released publicly.

The mayor said the city was negotiating until the last minute, and that the goal was to get the long-stagnant Main Street revitalization moving forward.

“Time is of the essence. I want to get these projects done. I want to get the city moving.”

The mayor said that neither of the deals would have been jeopardized if the Aldermen had waited until next month’s meeting to vote.

The mayor said Knapp and other members of the city’s Democratic party were Monday-morning quarterbacking.

“It’s the same old disgruntled people doing the same thing,” he said.

The Valley Indy left a message with Tripp Wednesday morning.

ATP, Palmer Contract by The Valley Indy on Scribd

Parking Lot Contract by The Valley Indy on Scribd

65 Main St. Contract by The Valley Indy on Scribd

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