Amazon delivers: Leaders say retail giant is a good fit for Waterbury, Naugatuck


By Hanna Snyder Gambini Republican-American

WATERBURY — Local and state officials proclaimed the potential for a huge economic boon to the region when they announced last month an Amazon distribution facility could be built on the Waterbury/Naugatuck line.

The project would bring millions in tax dollars and create hundreds of jobs, they predicted.

Officials in North Haven and Windsor, where similar facilities have sprung up in the past few years, said Waterbury and Naugatuck leaders are right to be optimistic, but they said reward is not entirely without risk.

Waterbury and Naugatuck officials are negotiating with Bluewater Property Group to buy and develop the industrial site known as the Waterbury/Nauguatuck Industrial Park with the end-goal of building an Amazon fulfillment center there.

Details of the deal, from the building size to the purchase price and possible tax incentives, are still under negotiations. Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary on Friday said the two municipalities are in the final phases of a purchase and sale agreement, which he expects to be completed as soon as this week.

O’Leary compared the footprint and impact of a local Amazon plant to one in North Haven that opened in 2019 and now generates roughly $5 million in taxes a year.

The town of Windsor has two facilities, with a third to be opened soon, and all three are currently on the tax rolls, generating several million a year.

Even with Amazon taking advantage of tax incentives offered by both towns, the multibillion dollar online distribution retailer easily tops the grand lists for both municipalities, meaning Amazon is their largest taxpayer based on the value of assessed property.

The three Windsor properties combined – including real property, delivery vehicles, and machinery and computer equipment inside the buildings, – are assessed at roughly $265 million, minus about $100 million in exemptions for the 2021 grand list, town officials said. The one company accounts for 5% of the entire grand list, according to town records.

Assessor Lawrence LaBarbera said even with the exemptions, “nothing of that magnitude has come close,” to Amazon’s tax-generating potential.

North Haven Assessor Gary Johns said their Amazon center, once it was operational, shot to the number-one spot on the grand list. With a 7-year sliding scale incentive, Amazon has given a huge boost to the town – for property assessed at about $73.8 million and Amazon paying roughly $5 million in taxes each year.

“It’s a huge boon to the tax base and grand list,” Johns said, with even more to come in as time goes on and the incentive program winds down.

With sites like Waterbury Hospital and the Brass Mill Center mall atop Waterbury’s grand list, O’Leary said he expects Amazon to easily breach the top five taxpayers once it’s on the rolls.

The city will split property sale proceeds and annual tax revenue with Naugatuck, and even then, local leaders are expecting “multiple millions” in taxes, O’Leary said.

He and Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess also see the benefit of more than 1,000 full-time facility jobs, several hundred more part-time jobs, as well as the work generated to build the facility. O’Leary said he’s optimistic of the financial impact, and well aware of the potential for concerns and complaints about the plant.

Burke said for Windsor, these tax-generating projects “don’t come without impact, and a significant one is truck traffic.” He said large semi trucks sometimes go through residential neighborhoods, and that is the number-one concern from residents.

The Amazon Fulfillment Center in New Haven. Jim Shannon Republican-American

Noise is also a big complaint since Amazon is a 24-hour operation, it has an impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

The town worked hard to put up sound walls, update standards on lighting and place no-parking signs on surrounding streets, Burke said.

He said any town looking to welcome an Amazon plant should plan to have a conversation about impact, and advised they get conditions in place as part of their approval process.

Amazon is receptive to concerns from town leaders, Burke said, adding that “Amazon has been a good citizen,” but some things are not totally under their control.

O’Leary said the Waterbury/Naugatuck development team is already working with Amazon to mitigate some of the potential negative effects and concerns, including traffic, noise and lights.

There are neighborhoods close to the proposed local site, and “our plan, once we get into the details of the project, is to hold a series of public hearings in Waterbury and Naugatuck, especially with the neighborhoods that are impacted,” O’Leary said.

He knows “people will have legitimate concerns, and we want to be as transparent as possible,” about the effects of a plant on the area.

The entrances and exits will likely be contained within the industrial park, and there will be adequate parking on the site, reducing the potential for large truck traffic seeping into neighborhoods, O’Leary said. The city has also been conducting traffic studies for South Main Street, which will be greatly impacted by the facility traffic.

“We’re going to have a lot of answers,” he said of the public information sessions.

Burke said Windsor “has really benefited” from having Amazon in town. While taxpayers have not seen a decrease in their budgets, the money “goes along way” in mitigating other rising costs and obligations in the town budget.

Road repairs are a town expense partially caused by and equally alleviated by the Amazon factory and fleet, he said. Waterbury, like those towns, will need to reinvest some of that tax money into road maintenance. O’Leary was proud of Waterbury’s ability to not raise taxes for most of his tenure, due mainly to economic development initiatives and growing the grand list. The grand list growth and revenue from Amazon will have a tremendous impact of stabilizing taxes even further, he said.

Burke said residents in Windsor are growing weary of tax incentives, especially for multibillion dollar Amazon, but each town has to strike the balance of benefit versus burden.

“Every company has a decision on where they invest their money, (Amazon is) investing here and our community benefits, so giving them a break on first few years of taxes is a fair trade off,” Burke said.