Company asks town to reconsider tax incentive vote

BEACON FALLS — A vote to deny a tax incentive to an out-of-town company has the business owners upset and the town’s top official concerned about the message it sends.

At an August town meeting, voters rejected an application from the Seymour-based property management company Dibra LLC for a tax abatement under the town’s tax incentive ordinance. The application was for an abatement on a commercial building the company built at 113 South Main St. Voters unanimously approved an incentive for the Goldenrod Corporation, which is based at 25 Lancaster Drive, at the meeting.

The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance previously approved both applications, but the voters had the final say.

Mario Trepca, who owns Dibra, came before the Board of Selectmen last week and asked the town to reconsider the vote.

“I am not asking for favors or handouts. I am only asking humbly that you help me make this place a town we can all be proud of,” Trepca told the board.

Dibra’s application met the requirements under the ordinance for a four-year tax incentive that would have abated 50 percent of taxes in the first year and incrementally decreased to 20 percent in the fourth year.

However, at the town meeting, some voters argued that the company shouldn’t get an incentive since it’s based in Seymour and raised concerns that Trepca has only paid for one sewer hookup for the building, which could potentially have two tenants.

Bledi Trepca, who has recently taken over maintenance and management of some of Dibra’s assets, including the property in Beacon Falls, said the decision to deny the application wasn’t logical, and decided by a group of people with no knowledge of the tax ordinance itself.

“The fact that Dibra’s (application) was approved by the Board of Selectman but denied by the public vote suggests the ignorance of the voters and begs the question did the people of Beacon Falls sincerely deny our application because they had adequate knowledge regarding tax revenue, commercial growth, prosperity and they genuinely believe this was bad for the town? Or was this decision solely political? Something is not right,” Bledi Trepca said.

The ordinance, which was approved in March, is part of the town’s renewed efforts to boost economic development in town, spearheaded by the Economic Development Commission.

Economic Development Commission Chairman Jack Betkoski spoke in favor of what Dibra has done for the town. He pointed to the property at 107 South Main St., which Dibra purchased at a tax sale in November 2017, as an example.

According to Betkoski, the property was blighted before Dibra purchased it.

“When you go by now it is clean and it looks better. [Mario Trepca] is going to renovate the whole place. That whole stretch is going to look beautiful. We appreciate everything he does. Certainly as a commission we support that,” Betkoski said.

Bledi Trepca said Dibra plans to appeal the vote to deny the company’s application.

“If our application is not granted we will pursue all legal options until a decision is properly justified,” Bledi Trepca said.

It’s unclear whether the vote can be appealed.

In a subsequent interview, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said he reached out to the town’s legal counsel to see if the company can appeal the decision.

While he waited for word from counsel, Bielik said he’s concerned about the message voting down the application sends to other businesses considering building in Beacon Falls.

“I stand behind the statements I made at the town meeting that the application was certainly within the scope and guidelines of the ordinances as it was written,” Bielik said. “I am concerned an outside business looking at this result will not understand why, if you have a qualified application, you would be denied.”