The Derby Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Feb. 27 to put its Redevelopment Agency on ice, saying the group no longer served a purpose in the city.
The Redevelopment Agency was created to bring residential, retail, commercial, or office construction to a 14-acre development zone along the Housatonic River along Main Street.
The group had the power “to rehabilitate, demolish structures, build new structures and parks improve infrastructure and streets, acquire, assemble and sell property, and make loans upon approval of the Board of Aldermen,” according to city documents.
The agency worked with Eclipse Development of California to get a retail development off the ground, but the company was unable to do anything with the property despite two-and-a-half years worth of effort.
Meanwhile, the Redevelopment Agency stopped holding meetings, a fact mentioned by Alderman Art Gerckens Feb. 27 as a reason to disband the group.
“They met four times in 2011. Twice in 2012. Twice in 2013, and they haven’t met in 2014,” Gerckens said. “They had the opportunity to meet 38 times in that period, yet they met a total of eight times.”
Gerckens said the Redevelpment Agency was no longer providing a service to Derby, nor reporting any activity to the Aldermen.
“I thank the members who served, but I think it is time to move on,” Gerckens said before making a motion at the Feb. 27 Aldermen meeting to disband the authority.
The vote to disband was approved unanimously.
What Derby is moving toward remains to be seen.
Immediately after the vote Alderman Ron Sill said the city has to figure out what it wants to do next.
In an interview Feb. 28, Mayor Anita Dugatto said she is not planning to form a new redevelopment agency anytime soon.
“They had their own charge for the south side of Main Street. It had a role in that, but there’s really nothing going on there right now,” Dugatto said.
Ken Hughes, a former Alderman who served on the Redevelopment Agency, indicated the Dugatto administration is being a bit passive-aggressive with the volunteer agency.
The Redevelopment Agency only held meetings when there was something to discuss, Hughes said.
There was nothing to talk about for at least a year, while Eclipse Development tried to line up financing and anchor tenants for the retail development it envisioned.
“We weren’t going to meet just to say we had a meeting,” Hughes said.
Under former Mayor Anthony Staffieri’s administration, the city’s economic development director usually touched base with the Redevelopment Agency to organize meetings.
No one from Dugatto’s administration contacted him about the Redevelopment Agency or asked questions about what its members were up to, Hughes said.
“To put the blame on a group of volunteers is not fair,” Hughes said.
The former Alderman also questioned whether a sign-off was needed from the state before disbanding the Redevelopment Agency, since the powers for the group come from state law.