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Stonington - Pfizer's decision to sell 82 acres of land off Taugwonk Road to the nonprofit Stonington Land Trust means the town will now lose $17,874 a year in tax revenue based on the current tax rate.
It also means the loss of 13 percent of light industrial land in town, land that could be used to not only generate even greater tax revenue but to create jobs, according to the chairman of the town's Economic Development Commission.
The town will lose the $17,874 because the land trust, as a nonprofit organization, is exempt from paying taxes.
"The loss of taxes is always difficult," First Selectmen Ed Haberek said. "But it's Pfizer's decision. I hope we can make it up by some of the other businesses like Zachry, which have come into town."
Haberek was referring to Zachry Nuclear Engineering, which recently purchased and renovated the former Kellem's property on Lord Hill Road.
About 30 acres of the property is zoned for light industrial use, which means it could have been developed for uses such as warehouses, offices, and research and development, which would generate more tax revenue. The rest of the land is zoned residential and requires a minimum of 3 acres to build a house.
EDC Chairman Blunt White said Wednesday that getting new land zoned for industrial use is very difficult, "So losing this hurts," he said.
He said the 30 acres of light industrial land on the site represents 13 percent of all the LI-130 land in town. In addition to creating tax revenue, he said, the land could have eventually provided well-paying jobs for residents.
"While land preservation is a noble goal, at some point we have to look at where it's taking us. The town has financial challenges that it has to meet," he said.
White said that according to figures he obtained from Tax Assessor Marsha Standish, 7,274 of the 26,680 acres of land in town, or about 27 percent, is now exempt from taxation.
"The town needs to be concerned that it is eroding its tax base," he said.
Last week, the land trust purchased the land for $350,000 thanks to an anonymous donation. The land had been appraised by the town at $1.6 million in the last revaluation.
The land trust has said the site was a critical to acquire preserve because it is one of the largest undeveloped pieces of property left in the Anguilla Brook watershed.