Board agrees to open negotiations for homes

Naugatuck officials will consider purchasing up to five homes in front of the newly renovated Naugatuck High School on Rubber Avenue. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Naugatuck officials will consider purchasing up to five homes in front of the newly renovated Naugatuck High School on Rubber Avenue. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are moving forward with negotiations in an attempt to buy several homes on Rubber Avenue.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted in favor of entering into negotiations with the homeowners of five houses in front of Naugatuck High School. The home addresses are 507, 515, 521, 527 and 533 Rubber Ave. They are Cape Cod-style homes built in the 1940s.

The plan to purchase the homes came up two years ago as part of the $81 million high school renovation project. Burgess and Naugatuck High School Renovation Committee Chairman Robert Neth said the acquisition of the properties would allow for additional parking at the high school.

The committee anticipates having anywhere between $1.8 million and $2.3 million left over from the project’s budget to set aside for the potential purchases and infrastructure work to design and build a parking lot, but committee members said they do not want to publicly state how much they are willing to pay for the properties.

The homes are appraised between $62,920 and $74,650.

Burgess Rocky Vitale asked if Naugatuck High School Principal Jan Saam is OK with the borough moving forward with this project.

Neth said it was a unanimous decision amongst the school and the committee to move forward.

However, not everyone is happy with the plan.

Evelyn Sawicki, who lives at 533 Rubber Ave., and Mary Roberts, who lives at 507 Rubber Ave., both spoke out against the possible sale Tuesday night.

“No one came forward to ask me anything,” Sawicki said. “I was told that, because I wasn’t interested in selling, no one approached me.”

Sawicki, who owns and operates the salon The Hair Chalet from her home, said she is worried about the possibility of the borough taking her home through eminent domain.

Neth said the borough does not have any plans to take any homes through eminent domain and will move forward with whichever homeowners would like to sell.

“I have stated several times, to you and via newspaper, that if you don’t want to sell that’s fine,” Neth said. “The bottom line is this: If you are interested in selling, that’s cool. If you’re not, that’s cool too because we’ll move forward with entertaining the other offers from the property owners who are interested.”

Mayor Robert Mezzo explained the decision the board made was only to begin negotiations with property owners.

“This allows the borough, through its attorney, to negotiate with you. If you choose to negotiate, you can negotiate. If you choose not to, you don’t have any obligation to do so,” Mezzo said.

Vitale said entering into negotiations was a good first step towards the revitalization of Rubber Avenue.

“Even besides just making more parking, I know for years we’ve been talking about cleaning up Rubber Avenue and this is going to make some nice clear site lines on there. I think it’s a start to getting moving on the rest of it,” Vitale said.

Neth said if any agreements are reached they will come back before the Naugatuck High School Renovation Committee. The committee will make a decision as to whether to pursue the plan and, if it chooses to move forward, will bring the agreements to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses.

Mezzo said the board will have to approve each agreement individually.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.