Stonington residents overwhelmingly approve Perkins Farm tax break

Stonington — Residents at Tuesday night’s town meeting overwhelmingly approved a tax break worth more than $1.3 million to the developer of the first phase of the proposed $70 million Perkins Farm project in Mystic.

Under the terms of the so-called fixed assessment, local developer David Lattizori would agree to invest $16.3 million in phase one, which calls for 121 upscale apartments.

Despite criticism of the plan on social media in recent days, the majority of those speaking at the town meeting supported the plan, saying it will help Lattizori offset some of the large infrastructure and other upfront costs he has expended over the past several years and pave the way for the second and third phases.

Phase 2 of the project calls for townhouse condominiums, and Phase 3 calls for a medical, research and office complex on the 70-acre site, which is off Jerry Browne Road across from the Stone Ridge retirement community. Phase 3 is proposed to create hundreds of permanent jobs.

Lattizori told the crowd gathered in the Stonington High School auditorium that his family has owned the property since 1999 and was approached three years ago by a Stone Ridge resident who wanted to see the highest and best use of the land as opposed to the residential subdivision that had been approved.

“We’re not out-of-touch, out-of-town developers. We grew up here,” he said about him and his sister. “We have a chance to reinvest in the town we call home. Three years ago, we took a huge risk to do something other than single-family homes.”

He said he has held countless meetings to discuss his plans with residents, incorporated their suggestions and received unanimous approval from all town commissions.

“This town said there is a need for this type of development,” he said.

Lattizori pointed out that the plan calls for preserving 50 percent of the site as open space. This part of the property is considered the most valuable because it borders Jerry Browne Road but residents wanted the rural character of the street preserved.

This means Lattizori will have to incur additional costs to extend a road, water, sewers and other infrastructure to the rear of the property along Interstate 95.

“When we put in the infrastructure, this will become one of the most valuable properties in Mystic,” he said.

Dr. Gene Winchester said he had been working with Lattizori to secure medical tenants for Phase 3 and so far there has been tremendous interest, as Mystic is seen as a very desirable market.

Other speakers said tenants will be attracted by the fact that the town “has skin in the game” by approving the tax breaks.

Economic Development Commission Chairman Dave Hammond said Lattizori already has borne sizeable unanticipated costs throughout the approval process. Local businessman and former Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Chuck Sneddon called Lattizori and his father, who had tried to develop the site in the past, “gentlemen of the first order” who “conduct themselves with honor” and do what say they will do.

“This doesn’t cost you anything. The taxes will go up every year for seven years to where it becomes the highest taxpayer in the town,” he said.

Representatives of the Stone Ridge retirement community, located across the street from the site, the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce and Olde Mistick Village all spoke in favor of the project.

“Mr. Lattizori has gone above and beyond to make sure this project is done right,” said Peggy Roberts, the president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce. “It sends a signal that Stonington embraces well-planned, healthy growth.”

A few speakers questioned giving tax breaks to a residential project that does not create jobs, the length of the tax breaks and offering them to a developer when the town is struggling to pay for equipment and may have to invest more in the school renovation project for PCB remediation.

Over a seven-year period, the building’s assessment, which is 70 percent of the fair market value, would be fixed at $11.4 million. This would normally produce an annual tax payment to the town of $259,334 a year based on the current tax rate of 22.68 mills. The agreement calls for Lattizori to pay a sliding scale of taxes on the building that begin in year one at 7 percent, or $18,153. The tax payment would increase 7 percent a year to 49 percent, or $127,071, in year seven.

In total, Lattizori would pay $508,295 in taxes on the building over the seven years, compared to the $1,815,341 he would pay without the tax break.

The agreement also calls for Lattizori to pay the full tax bill on the 71 acres of land and infrastructure improvements, which is estimated at $83,412 a year over seven years for a total of $583,887.

Between the land and the apartment building, Lattizori would pay $1,092,183 over seven years. It is estimated the completed project eventually will produce about $1.3 million a year in tax revenue for the town.

First Selectman Rob Simmons has pointed out that over the past 30 years, the town has approved similar tax plans, which are allowed under state law, for the former MAN Roland development, Davis Standard, Dekalb Plant Genetics, Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp., Quaimbog Professional Building, Zachry Nuclear Inc. and Threadmill Apartments. Only the Threadmill is a residential project.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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