Referendum on Renaissance rewrite rejected

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NAUGATUCK — One burgess’s efforts to force a referendum on any changes to the borough’s agreement with developer Alexius Conroy failed this week, as others on the Board of Mayor and Burgesses argued that no specific proposals had been put forth.

After a speech criticizing Conroy at the board’s Nov. 1 meeting, Burgess Patrick Scully Sr. said that a referendum should be held on any alterations or extensions to the agreement with the Fairfield-based developer for the Renaissance Place downtown revitalization project. The agreement could expire by May if Conroy has not signed a satisfactory contract with Saint Mary’s Hospital by then to begin the first phase, according to Jay Carlson, chairman of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corp.

Representatives of Conroy Development Corp., the NEDC, and the borough have said the development agreement is being revised as the May deadline approaches. Any changes to it would have to be approved by the borough board as well as by Conroy and the NEDC.

The agreement was signed in 2007 following a non-binding referendum on the $710 million project, which is supposed to include residential, retail, entertainment, restaurant and office space. The first phase is planned to include a 500-space parking garage that the borough is responsible for financing and a medical facility anchored by Saint Mary’s Hospital that Conroy would build.

“He is not living up to contract number one,” Scully said. “If a new contract is coming up, the electorate should have the right to vote on that contract.”

No other board members supported Scully’s motion. Some said they wanted to wait to see what, if any, changes to the agreement would be proposed.

“I guess I don’t even know what we’re having a referendum on,” Burgess Ronald San Angelo said. “Maybe something should go to referendum. It’s just, a number of us think it’s premature.”

Conroy said no specific changes to the agreement are yet on the table, and declined to say whether he was proposing a smaller medical facility than the 30,000 square feet that Carlson said he would like to see as a minimum.

“I’m not going to get into any details of negotiations or discussions that are under way,” Conroy said.

Conroy said he has spent money on studies, legal fees and personnel and operating costs over eight years, but would not say how much. He said discussions with Saint Mary’s were going well and financial backers were beginning to show interest in other components of the project. Conroy said he is aiming for a shovel in the ground by May, but he thinks he will have a contract with the hospital at least by then.

“I think we’re entering a better period,” Conroy said. “I believe we’ll work out an extension or a modification.”