Naugatuck working with Waterbury on opportunity zone

NAUGATUCK — The borough is hoping to develop property that straddles the Waterbury border for industry with a little help from the federal government.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses last week approved requesting a section of Naugatuck on both sides of Route 8 in the area of Great Hill Road be designated as an “opportunity zone” under new federal guidelines.

There is only one small catch — the borough has to apply as a contiguous tract with Waterbury.

“Under the rules of opportunity zones a contiguous tract becomes eligible if, and only if, the adjoining municipality, in this case Waterbury, submits an application to be in the opportunity zone and asks to include the contiguous tract in the adjoining town,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

The opportunity zone was created as part of President Donald Trump’s tax reform that passed earlier this year.

According to a press release from Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office, opportunity zones encourage long-term investments in low-income communities by providing tax breaks and tax incentives for developers.

The areas for potential opportunity zones are decided by census tracts.

Qualified census tracts are those that have a poverty rate of at least 20 percent of a median income that does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, according to the press release.

Contiguous tracts are low income areas that do not meet the qualifications set forth by the federal government but are adjacent to land in an area that does qualify.

Hess said the tracts in Naugatuck and Waterbury encompass a roughly 162-acre parcel of land that straddles the Naugatuck-Waterbury line at the end of Great Hill Road where the two municipalities have come together to build a new industrial park

In December, Naugatuck and Waterbury split the $390,000 cost of the 10.5-acre parcel at the end of Great Hill Road that was owned by Michael Devino. The purchase allowed the towns to extend Great Hill Road and access land owned by Waterbury.

Rather than just attracting a handful of smaller companies, Hess said the opportunity zone might be able to attract a business that is able to construct a building up to 900,000 square feet.

“So it is sort of a unique opportunity that is good for Naugatuck but also excellent for Waterbury because they are now able to offer something that is a difficult to find in Connecticut — a tract where you can have a building of that size in an industrial setting,” Hess said.

Waterbury Development Corporation interim CEO James Nardozzi said the corporation supports the idea.

“We are supportive of the southern end of Waterbury and northern end of Naugatuck being recognized ultimately as an opportunity zone by the federal government,” Nardozzi said.