NAUGATUCK — Democratic mayoral candidate N. Warren “Pete” Hess wants to help the borough grow in a smart way.
Hess’ platform lays out what he describes as “smart growth concepts,” which he explained is when a municipality looks into all aspects of its potential growth.
“When I say ‘smart growth’ we are talking about growth in a broader sense that goes beyond residential, commercial and industrial. It includes everything in an innovative and creative way that will generate more revenue, yet still work towards protecting the environment where we can,” Hess said.
Hess, 66, is vying to be Naugatuck’s next mayor in a race against Republican Tamath Rossi. The election is Nov. 3.
If elected, Hess wants to implement the ideas of smart growth throughout the borough, starting with the downtown. He supports the proposal for the former General DataComm property at 6 Rubber Ave., known locally as parcels A and B, which could bring up to 350 housing units.
“For many, many years the town has been arguing about what comes first. Well, I think the answer is pretty simple. You need people before the businesses will come,” Hess said.
Hess said he already has plans of how to draw those people into the borough’s downtown. He has proposed working with the owners of the former Salem Theater at 173 Church St. to renovate and reopen the theater.
“I think it would be a nice jumpstart to downtown. So I’m going to work diligently to try and find a way to bring that theater back,” Hess said. “I think it can be done and I’m going to do it and work hard on it. That will bring restaurants. That will bring other activities downtown. It will bring a breath of fresh air to downtown and help us as we move forward with parcels A and B.”
Hess said he will also ensure the plans for Parcel C, which is located on the corner of Water and Maple streets, come to fruition. Hess said the borough currently only has a contract in place, which has contingencies and obligations.
“In order for the taxpayers to win we have to start collecting taxes. Just having a contract in and of itself is not going to help us,” Hess said.
Hess said the next mayor will have to face land use and environmental issues, and, ultimately, the construction of the proposed medical center on Parcel C.
Hess, an attorney who deals in municipal and school government issues, said his more than 40 years of experience in law makes him the best candidate to move the project forward.
“All I do in my business every day is solve problems. There are always problems in construction projects and I believe I am the best candidate to solve those problems as they come up on a day-to-day basis,” Hess said.
Hess said he would also look beyond downtown for other potential growth areas, such as the Chemtura property on Spencer Street.
“To me, downtown is just the tip of the iceberg and we have to go far beyond downtown to be successful,” Hess said.
Hess said his concept of smart growth includes residential development, as well.
“In Naugatuck there has been an attitude of not allowing any residential growth and it’s been discouraged for a long time. Smart growth can include residential growth. There are many parts of town where we make a significant profit on residential real estate,” Hess said.
Hess cited Mistywood Lane as an example of a smart growth residential area that makes the borough money. The road is private and the homeowners pays for the plowing and trash collection, and each of the six residents on the road pays approximately $10,000 in taxes, Hess said.
“The town makes a significant profit on that street and projects like that should be encouraged, not discouraged,” Hess said.
Hess doesn’t pull any punches about the potential future of the borough, saying on his website that “we grow or we die a slow death.”
While he admits it sounds “overly dramatic,” he said it is the truth the borough faces now.
“We’ve been cutting our budgets as much as we can and we are still having an increasing mill rate. If the mill rate continues to increase and we continue to just cut, we will continue to head in a downward direction. A downward direction ultimately leads to death,” Hess said.
Hess said the converse of that is the borough, using smart growth, begins to grow, generate revenue, and use that revenue to provide for the residents.
Hess doesn’t want anyone to think that this type of change can happen overnight.
“It wouldn’t matter if we had the 10 best [people] in the country as mayor and burgesses, we’re not going to see any significant tax relief immediately. It’s going to take time to turn the ship. We have to stop the downward slide, stabilize, begin moving forward, grow gradually, and just change the direction of the town,” Hess said.
Despite how difficult it may be, Hess said, with his plan for smart growth, he remains optimistic about the borough’s future.
“I think the future is bright for Naugatuck,” Hess said. “If we all work together, if we start to implement smart growth concepts, we can move forward, we will move forward. I’m an optimist. I believe in Naugatuck. I love Naugatuck. I believe we can and will move forward soon.”
For more information on Hess’ campaign visit www.hessfornaugatuck2015.com.