A tax break has been approved for a developer looking to add more market-rate housing in Danbury. The City Council approved the tax assessment deferral for BRT's $13 million, 150-unit apartment complex proposal. The apartments would replace the News-Times building on Main Street.
The property was valued on the 2016 grand list at $1.75 million. Hearst Connecticut Media Group is selling the property as it consolidates into their Norwalk office.
BRT previously received a 7-year tax deferral for a Crosby Street development called Brookview Commons. That approval though was fraught with controversy as the intent of that project changed. The Brookview Commons tax break was offered in an effort to bring people downtown who had disposable income. The projected mostly housed West Conn students for a time and then reverted to the intended use.
Council President Joe Cavo says he voted for the old tax break because of a concern that they'd still be looking at abandoned lumber yard today if an incentive wasn't offered. He notes that the property came off the deferral in 2013 and is now bringing in $240,000 in property taxes a year.
Some Council members said they should be incentivizing affordable housing and not offering a break for market-rate housing.
Councilman Andrew Wetmore said he doesn't understand how his colleagues could say they support building downtown, but not doing something to support the developer. He called it disingenuous.
Council Minority Leader Tom Saadi took exception to that characterization. He said if they have to be married all the time, then every single development downtown would have to get a deferral. Saadi says there are many incentives that the Council has supported, such as sewer and water deferrals. But he doesn't believe this project, at this time, doesn't need a deferral.
Councilman Irv Fox agreed that you can separate the deferral and the idea of developing downtown. But he added that in today's economic reality, the likelihood of a development of this magnitude without a deferral is very unlikely.
Adjustments are made to the property value as the land and what's on it changes because the Grand List is constantly updated. The tax assessment deferral doesn't kick in until the certificate of occupancy has been issued. With BRT's Crosby Street development, Mayor Mark Boughton says the value went pretty high because some of the development was built before the project was completed.