Waterford will take position on Seaside taxing district proposal

The Waterford Board of Selectmen will vote Tuesday on whether to support the creation of a special taxing district that Farmington-based developer Mark Steiner is advocating for the state-owned, former Seaside property on Shore Road.

First Selectman Daniel Steward called for the meeting to be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Waterford Town Hall in response to state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, and state Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, saying there must be clear direction from the town before they pursue legislation to create such a district.

"I remain in support of getting something done at Seaside," Steward said. "If it requires a special taxing district and that is what they can do, then that is fine."

Tuesday's meeting will be open to all and will allow for public comment, Steward said. The vote would demonstrate whether the town supports the special taxing district, he said.

Steiner has proposed a 122-unit condominium complex at Seaside, which once built would be worth $125 million to $150 million and would yield about $1.6 million to $2 million in property tax revenues to the town, Steiner said.

The price for the property is $8 million, Steiner said. The cost of infrastructure improvements such as repairing a seawall have risen to about $8.5 million, Steiner's attorney, Joseph A. Vitale, said.

Steiner wants the special taxing district, which would rely on bonds to build infrastructure and residents to pay off the bonds through a tax, to be part of the financing. Steiner also wants to create the special taxing district before the voters in this district move into their condominiums, according to his attorney's letter.

On May 15, Stillman and Ritter said in a letter to Steward that "We cannot in good conscience move forward with Mr. Steiner's request without the town's blessing of this proposal. To that end, we request that you place the taxing district proposal on the agenda of the Board of Selectmen, to allow for appropriate public discussion and Board action."

The actions come on the heels of a May 11 story in The Day about the proposal for a taxing district for Seaside.

Stillman and Ritter said in the letter that they would like to take their lead from the town but are concerned that Waterford has no experience creating a special taxing district. They said they are also concerned about what would happen if legislation were passed before the property is purchased from the state.

Steward had said that has been a concern for him as well.

"My biggest problem is, what happens if he doesn't buy it, then what? Are we left with a statute that has a property that can be divided into a tax district without any ownership?" Steward said.

Steiner has been trying to purchase the property for years. At one point, former Gov. M. Jodi Rell halted the sale, only to say two years later that the state would consider selling the property to raise money.

The existing purchasing agreement with the state depends on whether Steiner gets local zoning, building and other approvals, said Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for the state's Department of Administration Services.

j.somers@theday.com

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