Collective effort aims to make sites productive
NAUGATUCK — A new program is aiming to assist municipalities with turning brownfield sites into productive parcels again.
The Regional Brownfields Partnership of West Central Connecticut, which is hosted by the Valley Council of Governments, has implemented a new program called the Land Bank to try and deal with long-standing brownfield issues.
“We’ve been exploring the idea of how we can help municipalities take the next steps in returning the sites that have been long-troubled sites to productive use,” said Arthur Bogen, who is president of the program.
Bogen said the Land Bank is an effort by the partnership to see how the municipalities can get the most out of the pieces of land they currently can’t do anything with.
“Our intention right now is to meet with a number of municipalities to explore some of their troubled sites and to begin the dialogue of how we can be of assistance,” Bogen said.
The Land Bank will work on the principal that rather than a municipality having small brownfield parcels to remediate and try and sell, the parcels will be overseen by one organization.
“The effort revolves around the sense of let’s tackle these things together rather than being on their own,” Bogen said.
The Land Bank has been in the works for about a year, but it will still be a while before it actually takes any land on, Bogen said. While there are other land banks in America, this is the first in Connecticut, he said.
The one being developed for the Naugatuck Valley area has applied for 501(c) 3 status with the goal of becoming a 501(c) 4 to carry out nonprofit development.
Bogen said the Land Bank will be working with communities between Waterbury and Shelton, including Beacon Falls, Prospect and Naugatuck.
“The most proactive has been Naugatuck. They have the largest legacy of sites to try to deal with,” Bogen said.
Bogen said that the Brownfields Partnership has worked with Naugatuck on the remediation of Parcel C, the 2.2-acre, borough-owned piece of land at the corner of Maple and Water Streets.
The Brownfields Partnership has also visited the Prospect Street School to discuss the removal of hazardous materials within the school and the remediation of the piece of land on the borough-owned Andrew Mountain Road property.
The program has also worked with Beacon Falls on a brownfield off Railroad Avenue.
Bogen said the Land Bank is not formally engaged to do any work with the borough currently, but has had discussions with the borough with how it might be able to help.
“They are willing to do the hard work that it takes to move that forward,” Bogen said. “How can we look at sites that have trouble and help move them forward?”
Bogen said the Land Bank will look at each site individually, figure out what the problems facing the sites are and what the sites’ assets are, and move forward from there.
“The Land Bank is an effort to explore how we can change the fact that these are brownfields and get a good outcome piece by piece. There is no blanket solution,” Bogen said.
Bogen said the new program will help towns in more ways than just economic development. It will also help clean up some blighted properties that have plagued the municipalities for a long time.
“It’s terrible to think some of our neighbors have to wake up and look at a blighted factory. That has been going on for a generation or more,” Bogen said. “We have great hope we will get to all of these sites in time and fix them up. I think that’s very important for us in a society.”
While speaking at the Naugatuck Economic Development’s Annual Meeting in November Bogen said that these brownfields are often areas of crime and arson since there are usually abandoned buildings on the site.
“We have to wake up these sleeping assets and clear these brownfields. We need to succeed,” Bogen said.