With the recent demolition of the Peter Paul building, one of the last remnants of Naugatuck’s industrial past, borough leaders are looking for other ways to keep Naugatuck’s manufacturing tradition alive.
The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation (NEDC) is recommending the revision of zoning regulations to allow some of the larger lots in the Naugatuck Industrial Park to be subdivided, paving the way for new businesses to come in and existing businesses to expand into new buildings.
Smaller lots could mean more tax revenue and jobs for the town, according to Dave Prendergast, NEDC president and CEO.
“It would mean some flexibility and additional opportunity to accommodate businesses looking to relocate to the borough,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said.
Ten new lots with a 20,000 square-foot footprint could mean 200,000 square feet of new construction and taxable space in Naugatuck, according to Prendergast.
“It’s not the 500 to 1,000 employee companies that were a part of our community for the better part of a century, but the smaller manufacturers still find Naugatuck a good place to do business,” Mezzo said.
Mezzo said there’s no better tax revenue for a municipality than companies that create products and technology. Plus, Mezzo added, the quality of the jobs those companies bring in is greater than many jobs in the retail and service industries.
Whether owners of current lots would want to sell or lease part of their property once subdivided it up to each business, but the possibility would be there.
“It’s obviously going to be controlled by the people who own the property,” Prendergast said.
Prendergast said he’s talked with several property owners in the park who have expressed an interest in such a change.
One wants to put a second building on their property to lease and another is thinking of relocating to a larger building and selling their current building, Prendergast said.
The NEDC has met with Naugatuck’s land use staff and Economic Development Commission to discuss the changes.
The next step is to discuss the idea with the Zoning Commission at their April 20 meeting, Prendergast said. It will probably be referred to the Planning Commission, and possibly Inlands-Wetlands commissions as well.
“I don’t know why any of the land use boards would not want to do it,” he said.
Prendergast said the boards must make sure that the changes still provide for the quality and integrity of the industrial park as it was originally developed, with nicely landscaped buildings and appropriate setbacks from the road.
“We want them to be assets,” he said.
Any changes to the zoning regulations would have to go to public hearing.
“We’re talking about hopefully moving this through over the next several months,” Prendergast said.
He said the NEDC hoped to conclude the process by the end of the summer.
The town still owns three undeveloped lots in the industrial park, but those lots are topographically challenged, Prendergast said.
“There would be a significant amount of site work in order to create a building pad for those sites,” he said.
Companies regularly approach the NEDC to ask if there’s any space available in the industrial park, but the NEDC is not able to accommodate those requests, according to Mezzo.
“Our industrial park has been nothing but a success story throughout its history. It provides approximately $1.8 million in tax revenue on an annual basis. But it’s primarily full in terms of developable lots as it currently exists,” Mezzo said.
Prendergast said the town doesn’t have the money or the space to start from scratch with a new industrial park. Plus, the infrastructure is already in place at the current industrial park.
“This would be a more economical way to expand our tax base and create job opportunities for our residents,” he said.
Mezzo said that Industrial Park companies have done a tremendous job remaining financially viable through the past few years.
“I think that the park itself goes unnoticed in many cases, but even through the recession, it remains strong,” Mezzo said.
He said it’s not an accident that the park is still strong—citing the NEDC and borough Economic Development Commission’s work to maintain strong relations with existing businesses and bring in new ones.
“Locally, we’ve made great strides over the past 10 years to be more responsive to the needs of our small manufactures,” Mezzo said.
NEDC was created in 2003 based on recommendations from a Mount Auburn Associates study which found Naugatuck didn’t have capacity to respond proactively to economic development.
The $40,000 cost of the study was a minimal expense, considering the town’s return on the investment, Mezzo said.
“Take 1.8 million dollars out of our budget annually and you’ve got a big mess on your hands,” he said.
Anomatics recently announced they will be investing about $1.2 million and 17 new jobs into their Naugatuck facility.
Chemtura has also indicated they plan to expand operations at their plant, bringing with them about 70 jobs from their office in Middlebury.
“It bodes well for the thought that perhaps better times are coming,” Prendergast said.
With the unemployment rate in Naugatuck hovering around 12 percent, those better times couldn’t come too soon.