By LISA CAPOBIANCO
In 1975, Connecticut developed the City and Town Development Act to help fight high unemployment and other negative economic conditions statewide. Upon adoption and ratification, the act gives certain powers to a municipality to enhance economic development, such as selling development property, making loans and grants to developers, providing tax abatements, and more.
On Nov. 4, voters in Bristol will see a referendum question on the ballot to determine whether the city should continue exercising the act’s powers. According to records of the Bristol Development Authority’s records, Bristol voters have approved using the act since 1984.
Richard Lacey, assistant corporation counsel, said under the act, the legislature grants municipalities additional powers to help with economic development.
“It gives [the BDA] an additional tool in the tool box to attract and expand business and industry in the community,” said Lacey. “[The act] has been in place for decades.”
Every five years, the Bristol City Council, after the BDA gives authority, votes whether or not to continue using the powers under the act. On July 30, the City Council held a public hearing before approving the act. Now Bristol voters must approve the resolution by public referendum on Nov. 4.
Justin Malley, executive director of the BDA, added that the act can also play a role in transportation and housing. He noted several other communities in Connecticut that have already adopted the act, including Southington. Under the act, the Bristol City Council must approve any incentives that proposed to.
“We have that same opportunity, and if…the referendum does not pass, that means we’re not at the level playing field with these other communities,” said Malley. “We’re competing for the same businesses, and the same development.”
Through the act, one benefit that the city could offer developers is the opportunity to borrow money at a lower interest rate than they could qualify on their own. The act also can make tax abatements available for developers of new construction projects.
Malley recalled how the act played a role in the opportunity to offer incentives for the development of the ESPN daycare/preschool, which is located on Enterprise Drive.
“They receive tax abatements through the act, which help get them into development,” said Malley.
If the referendum passes, Malley said the act would allow the BDA to continue offering incentives it currently has the ability to offer.
“When [companies are] deciding where to locate, what weighs heavily in their decision is often what types of incentives can the community offer,” said Malley, adding how the act will continue to allow the ability to attract not only economic development but also jobs and good quality housing. This gives us an opportunity to do that.”
Meanwhile, two other referendum questions on the ballot will determine whether there should be a proposed revision to the Bristol charter, which would eliminate the requirement for the fire chief and chief of police to become a resident of Bristol within six months of being appointed, and to continue residency there during his or her term of office. According to the Bristol Charter, the police and fire chief are hired based on test scores and civil service exams, said Democratic Registrar of Voters Mary Rydingsward during an information session on this year’s referendum questions. The charter also states that the fire or police chief “will be first hired within the ranks,” which means they must already work in the police or fire department. Once the chief is hired, he or she has six months from the time they are appointed to become a Bristol resident, according to the city’s charter. If voters answer no, that means they favor the Bristol residency requirement for the police and fire chief, as stated in the charter currently. If voters answer yes, that means they agree that part of the charter should be dismissed.
“If there are a sufficient number of candidates who have a passing score on the fire chief or police chief exam, we must hire from within the ranks. If there is not a sufficient number of passing scores, then they can go outside the current police officers or fire fighters,” said Rydingsward, adding how the residency requirement has been included in the charter for years. “We hire Bristol employees first for the chief positions.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@Bristol Observer.com.