Developer makes offer on land straddling Waterbury-Naugatuck border

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By Michael Puffer, Republican-American

Naugatuck and Waterbury officials are working together to develop land that straddles the border of the two municipalities. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN ARCHIVE

WATERBURY — A developer has put in an offer on roughly 150 acres of land Waterbury owns on either side of its border with Naugatuck.

Just one developer responded to the April 30 deadline for the city’s advertisement for requests for proposals.

“It looks very interesting and could be very positive for the city of Waterbury,” Mayor Neil O’Leary said.

O’Leary said the city cannot release any details of the development proposal while the vetting and negotiation process is ongoing. The developer has asked for confidentiality, O’Leary said. State law allows RFP negotiations to remain confidential until concluded. O’Leary said there is no deadline or estimate for the review and negotiation.

“They are very much in the due diligence stages and we are as well,” O’Leary said. “So, we are checking each other out.”

That vetting includes ensuring the developers have the resources to follow through on their proposal, O’Leary said.

“If we get through the due diligence and we still like each other at that time, we will be releasing information to the public,” O’Leary said.

The land, which is owned by the city, has been zoned for commercial or industrial use. The city has tried to develop the land for years, contemplating a mall, dog track, casino and other uses. But access to the land, which borders South Main Street, remained a huge obstacle and the political will was not there to plow through residential areas.

O’Leary partnered with Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess on a new plan. An access road would be built through Naugatuck. Waterbury will get the proceeds of any land sale, but both municipalities will split the resulting tax revenue.

The selection committee appointed by O’Leary includes: Waterbury Finance Director Michael LeBlanc, Waterbury Development Corp. interim CEO Donato Pesce, O’Leary Chief of Staff Mackenzie Demac, O’Leary aide David Lepore, Waterbury Corporation Council Linda Wihbey, Waterbury Budget Specialist Sarah Geary, Waterbury Purchasing Director Kevin McCaffery, as well as Waterbury Board of Education members Charles Pagano and Rocco Orso.

Orso had long served as the city’s purchasing director. Pagano is a retired ESPN executive and engineer who has repeatedly volunteered to help O’Leary with complex technical problems and projects.

Hess said he’s been included on the committee, and that the proposal would bring jobs.

“I think it will be a positive boost in the arm and also help us attract other businesses,” Hess said.

The selection committee has met at least twice so far.

The state awarded $2.8 million in 2018 to help fund the construction of an access road from Great Hill Road in Naugatuck as well as associated utilities. City officials have not tapped the money, as they plan to build the roadway and utilities to suit whatever developer and plan is chosen. Conceptual designs drafted to show potential uses included a single building of approximately 850,000 square feet or nine smaller commercial buildings.

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