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The North Haven Board of Selectmen anticipates approving tax incentives that will bring an Amazon distribution hub to the former Pratt & Whitney site at its meeting tonight. The development is anticipated to bring from 1,000 to more than 3,000 jobs to the region. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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With Amazon.com confirmed as the end user for the old Pratt & Whitney site located at 409 Washington Avenue, town officials are looking forward to new job opportunities, other new economic development, and large financial revenues for the town.
Amazon’s attorney, John Stafstrom of Pullman & Comley, LLC, who also represented Amazon when it opened a distribution center in Windsor, said that the facility in North Haven will be bigger than what is in Windsor. The facility will also bring approximately 1,500 full-time jobs, according to Stafstrom.
Stafstrom said that the facility will be a state-of-the-art, robotic distribution center. He also said the project represents an investment of approximately $255 million, including about $130 million of taxable personal property.
Pratt & Whitney was the town’s largest employer, but sold the property in 2001 after operating there for nearly 50 years.
First Selectman Michael Freda that he expects the number of starting jobs to be around 1,800, with the possibility of expanding to up to 3,000 jobs, citing the fact that the proposed development will have 2,500 parking spaces with an additional 500 spaces for overflow parking.
Freda said he works closely with the Connecticut Workforce Alliance, and has offered Amazon the alliance’s services, which includes a pool of about 16,000 available workers in the region.
Construction on the site should be beginning during the week of June 12, according to Freda, and the construction process should take roughly 14 to 18 months. Freda said he expects Amazon to start hiring around the completion of the project.
Freda said that Amazon will be in the top three Grand List taxpayers in town. He said that once the building is up and running, the town will receive approximately $5 million per year in taxes.
Freda said that other businesses in the area, such as restaurants, may benefit from Amazon’s arrival. He said other restaurants have been able to increase their business when new developments come to town, giving as an example Yale medical services.
With the approval of two incentives at the Board of Selectmen meeting on June 8, Amazon.com is clear to move forward with its project.
Freda reiterated at the meeting that this project is the culmination of two years of hard work to bring new economic development in town, saying that the site was the top priority in terms of economic development since he took office in 2009.
“Amazon and my firm have enjoyed our relationship with the town,” Stafstrom said.
The first incentive that passed was for an Economic Development Tax Incentive Program for Amazon. Town Attorney Jeffrey Donofrio said that North Haven previously adopted an ordinance that provides for a property owner, in certain circumstances, to apply for tax incentives.
Assessor Gary Johns reviewed Amazon’s application, and determined that the proposed property qualifies for the incentive. The motion to approve the tax incentive passed unanimously.
The incentive will see Amazon receive an abatement on its real estate taxes, meaning the land and the building, over seven years. Personal property on the site will remain fully taxable.
The first year, Amazon will pay 25 percent of its real estate taxes, but that number will increase incrementally over the seven years, and will pay 100 percent of its real estate taxes after the seventh year.
“The town is still getting revenue it currently doesn’t have,” said Freda regarding the tax incentive.
The next incentive that needed to be passed was a Building Permit Fee Abatement Agreement. Building Official Elio Floriano said that the estimated building permit fees for the site is about $1.2 million.
Since the project is expected to exceed $200 million in capital investment, Amazon currently qualifies for a 50 percent abatement, meaning it would only pay about $600,000 for building permits. If the project turns out to be less than $200 million, it would qualify for 25 percent abatement, and Amazon would then have to pay additional costs.
Freda and Second Selectman Timothy Doheny voted to approve the abatement of building permit fees, while Third Selectman Sally Buemi abstained.
Buemi said she abstained for two reasons. The first is that the numbers the town relied upon, and reported in a town meeting for the 2017-’18 budget, aren’t panning out.
About $1 million in building permit fees were put into that budget because of the project, but with the abatement, the number will be less than what was projected.
Her second concern was the uncertainty of other permit fees. Freda had said at the meeting that he expects five new economic development projects to move forward in the Washington Avenue area as a result of the Amazon project coming to fruition, and he believes permit fees from those projects will get the number back to the originally estimated $1 million, if not more.
Freda and Floriano also said that Amazon will likely apply for additional permits for things such as the wiring of conveyor belts and other equipment, and industrial shelving installation.
Still, Buemi wanted to make it “very clear” that she is in full support of the development, saying it’s beneficial to the town in many ways, and wanted to congratulate Freda for his work.
She said that her abstention was a less abrasive way to show her unhappiness.
Doheny said the project is a big one for the town, and called it an “economic generator.” He also brought up the potential new developments Freda mentioned, as well as the revenue the project will generate for the town and the jobs it will create.
Freda thanked everyone who worked together to make the project happen, including Amazon, Amazon’s attorneys, Hillwood Development Company, Rabina Properties, and other town officials.
He said North Haven was attractive to Amazon because of how town officials simplified the regulatory processes.
State Senator Len Fasano (R-34) said Freda was the driving force behind the Amazon development.
“We were honored to work with Amazon under Mike Freda’s leadership to bring this project to fruition,” said Fasano. “Our town and our state [are] indebted to Mr. Freda and his exceptional efforts to create and welcome these jobs in our community.”
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