GDC, Mezzo to sign agreement on site access

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NAUGATUCK — The borough will begin its long-awaited search for contamination on privately owned property downtown where a Fairfield-based developer wants to build the first phase of the$710 million revitalization project called Renaissance Place.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses unanimously gave Mayor Robert A. Mezzo authority on Tuesday to enter into a site access agreement with General DataComm Industries, a Delaware corporation with an address at 6 Rubber Ave. That address was one of the main areas in Naugatuck where rubber products were made for almost 150 years.

“One can only speculate at this point what contamination is buried on the property,” said Deputy Mayor Tamath K. Rossi. “This access agreement is a step in the right direction.”

General DataComm CFO Bill Henry and Mayor Bob Mezzo will sign an access agreement allowing the borough to conduct environmental tests on the property.

Mezzo will sign the document this week with Bill Henry, chief financial officer for GDC. That will give the borough authority to conduct phase one and phase two environmental studies, which search for contamination, and possibly phase three studies, which will give the borough and Renaissance Place developer Alexius C. Conroy an idea of what contaminants, if any, need to be removed and cleaned before development can begin.

The borough will use a $200,000 federal grant to pay for the cleanup.

Mezzo said environmental cleanups are not glamorous achievements, but a lot of work goes into them and they are necessary to move Renaissance Place forward.

“I don’t live in a cocoon; I realize the public is frustrated with the pace of this project,” he said. “We all are. The reality is this is a complex project with many facets which are happening during very difficult and unique economic times, and we have to get this done right.”

If the property is clean, Conroy wants to invest up to $152 million to build 387 condominiums, 170,000 square feet of office space, 223,000 square feet of retail/commercial space and a 44,300-square-foot movie theater. He says that is Phase One of his four-phase project. The first phase requires an investment of up to $30 million in public financing to make infrastructure improvements.

The borough is also cleaning land on the corner of Water and Maple streets known as Parcel C, where rubber products were also made for many years. That land is owned by the borough and has sat vacant for almost 30 years.

Conroy wants to build a state-of-the-art medical facility for Saint Mary’s Hospital on that site, but the cleanup process is currently stalled because the company conducting the cleanup, Manafort Brothers, has found contamination that it cannot treat on site. The borough is discussing options with Manafort.

About the access agreement with GDC, Burgess Patrick Scully said he “wants the environmental studies done right the first time so we don’t end up with another Parcel C debacle.”