NEWINGTON - To be or not to be: that is the question facing the Cedar Mountain Villas.
Motorists coming down the mountain on Route 175 may have noticed a large white sign alluding to a future senior living community in the long-vacant construction site at the corner of Russell Road.
“COMING SOON” it reads, “The Villas at Cedar Mountain” and “A New Era in Senior Living.”
This community’s existence is largely dependent on the desire and flexibility of town officials and taxpayers, according to Newington Economic Development Director Andy Brecher. He recently filled Town Council in on the plan by developer HDC1 to build 211 apartments – 89 suited to independent living and 122, assisted living or memory care.
“At 250,000 square feet this is a pretty significant project,” Brecher said. “This is probably the largest single investment anyone has proposed for Newington.”
Councilors were largely open to the possibility of a hefty addition to the town’s grand list and new housing to accommodate the town’s growing senior population.
“The value this could bring to our community is huge and something we need to consider,” Beth DelBuono said.
The Town Planning & Zoning and Inland Wetlands Commission approved the site application last July.
Brecher, who serves as liaison between the town and the developer, came to the council for direction on how to proceed with the company, which has been trying to secure funding to begin construction for the last year and a half.
The most feasible option at this point, he said, would be to give HDC1 a tax break, helping to finalize a loan for $60 million in construction costs. This is known as a fixed tax assessment, utilized by towns to freeze a property’s taxable value for a set period of time. This exempts the property owner from a percentage of taxes, providing a sort of boost to spur a development’s growth.
The last time Newington afforded this privilege to a company was ten years ago, for aerospace manufacturer GKN.
Without some type of assistance, the project will probably fold, Brecher told councilors.
“But for getting some sort of relief, they can’t move forward and this won’t happen,” he explained.
The property has been vacant for well over a decade and prior developers’ proposals have failed to come to fruition. Mixed retail, offices, even a hotel would not bring nearly as much value to the town as this would, Brecher pointed out.
“Other types of developments would produce a lot less economic activity and probably only 20 to 40 percent of the taxes this type of independent and assisted living project would produce,” he said.
Currently the property is worth $40,000 in taxes to the town and with the projected build-out and tax break, the town would collect over $1.2 million the first year.
“That would be on top of personal property taxes and building permit fees,” Brecher said.
Councilors agreed that the public should weigh in before any action is taken by the town.
“I think we need to hear from the people who pay our taxes,” Carol Anest said.
A public information meeting could occur as early as June 12, immediately before the council’s next regular meeting.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.