NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are looking to make improvements to Rubber Avenue, one of the main commercial strips in town.
“Rubber Avenue is a more challenging part of town to upgrade because of its location and the fact that Rubber Avenue is not a direct corridor to other towns or other large population areas,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.
The commercial development of the road essentially ends in the plaza just past Naugatuck High School.
One of Hess’ main goals is to relocate borough facilities, including the street department, ambulance corps, park department, and recycling center, which he characterized as an “eyesore.”
Once the departments are moved, the borough could sell the lots for commercial development and get the land back on the grand list of taxable properties.
Originally, Hess hoped to move those departments to the former Chemtura property off Elm Street on the banks of the Naugatuck River, but now he has a grander scheme for that particular 86.5-acre parcel — he’s working on a plan to turn that property into an inland port and rail-to-truck transportation hub.
Now Hess said the borough’s studying the feasibility of other suitable locations for the facilities, but hasn’t settled on one yet.
The park department has already been relocated to the old armory building down the street, which the borough recently acquired from the state.
Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ronald Pugliese said he supports the idea of moving borough departments off Rubber Avenue and encouraging more commercial uses in the area.
Hess said he also wants to change the rules and regulations of the Rubber Avenue Design District, a special zoning area created 10 years ago to encourage mixed retail and service investment in the area.
“I don’t think that those rules adequately address existing conditions,” Hess said.
He said the rules need to account for the lack of parking and other issues in the area for a more practical approach to the redevelopment. The current rules create excessive requirements for special permits for business uses, Hess said, which discourages new businesses from setting up shop.
“We can have better rules that will address what we have, what we’re looking for, and be more likely to encourage a good developer to rehab a building on Rubber Ave,” Hess said.
Pugliese agreed, saying he would come up with a plan to take to the Zoning Commission early in the new year.
More commercial development helps grow the grand list and lower taxes for everyone, Pugliese said.
“That’s really what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said.
Pugliese said he’s working with a commercial broker to redevelop the old Risdon property, which is behind Naugatuck Ambulance on Rubber Avenue.
“All this comes at a very good time,” Pugliese said.
The borough worked out an agreement to develop the property with the Matthews family, which owns it, a few years ago, in exchange for back taxes and some of the property donated to the Peter J. Foley Little League, Pugliese said. He said he’d like to see the development started in 2018.
While Pugliese said he’d always envisioned a big box retail or supermarket in that area, the borough will consider anything that will add to the grand list.