Waterford selectmen table Seaside taxing district issue

Waterford — Under advice from the town attorney, members of the Board of Selectmen Tuesday evening tabled a vote on whether to support the introduction of a legislative bill that would create a special taxing district for the state-owned Seaside property.

Developer Mark Steiner promised the bill will not be proposed this legislative session.

"It's not my intention to go forward. It's only been 14 years, what's a few more months?" Steiner said. "We've obviously spoken and spoken with the town, and we're comfortable doing this so that their concerns can be addressed."

As proposed to the selectmen Tuesday evening, the bill would create a district with authority to tax its residents for the purpose of paying off the cost of bonding infrastructure costs on the waterfront property.

The board will revisit the special taxing district legislation in September, but only after a new committee addresses the town's concerns and drafts an interlocal agreement.

Town attorney Robert Avena said during the meeting that the interlocal agreement is the "key" to the requested special taxing district legislation. The Town of Windsor has an interlocal agreement with a taxing district established there that Waterford will examine.

"The special act (in Windsor) was followed up with the (interlocal) agreement between the town of Windsor and the district formed in the town," Avena said. "It was really how the district was going to operate within the town, and that's what we don't have, and what we haven't had a chance to digest and discuss. We wouldn't feel comfortable giving any advice to this board until we have a better understanding of the interlocal agreement."

The committee to vet the interlocal agreement will be comprised of the town's planner, Steiner, Avena, First Selectmen Daniel Steward, Steiner's attorney Joseph Vitale and Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut President Tony Sheridan. Residents at Tuesday's meeting urged selectmen for a seat at the table for community members as well.

Resident Susan Clancy asked if the town would be responsible for the legal costs involved in reviewing Windsor's interlocal agreement and the time spent on reviewing other documents related to Seaside. She was told Steiner would be responsible for the costs associated with the interlocal agreement review.

"Then why doesn't he just put $50,000 into an escrow account to take care of the town's expenses?" she said. "If he's asking us to do something on short order, he should come up with the money. That would be at least a good faith effort. We're being asked to spend our money and we don't even know what we're accommodating."

Since 1999, Steiner has proposed a 122-unit condominium development at the state-owned former Seaside Sanitarium property but has never formally submitted development plans to the town.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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