WATERTOWN: Developer pulls plug on $64 million complex

Friday, April 6, 2007

BY JONATHAN SHUGARTS

Copyright 2007 Republican-American

The Konover Development Corp. withdrew an application on Thursday for a zone change that might have brought a $64 million retail complex to 119 acres near Route 8 and Echo Lake Road.

 

Representatives from the corporation said they had reached an impasse with members of the Planning and Zoning Commission over a $58,000 traffic and economic impact study the commission requested Konover to fund.

 

It was expected the 415,000-square-foot complex could have generated about $1 million in annual tax revenue for the town, and created about 800 jobs.

The Farmington-based corporation wanted the commission to allow for mixed commercial and retail use in what is now an industrial zone. To make that happen, a zone change was needed.

 

But it wasn't guaranteed the commission would approve Konover's application after the study was conducted. Now, Konover has yanked the proposal, saying a main reason was because the commission was asking the corporation to pay for a study prematurely. Konover issued a statement about its withdrawal and informed the commission in a letter.

Stanley C. Glantz, senior vice president of Konover, said the impasse could have been avoided.

 

"Our concern is that equally comprehensive and expensive studies would be required after the zone change approval, but before the final special permit/site plan review," Glantz said in a statement.

 

"This would double our costs," he said. "Consequently, we have made the decision to reluctantly withdraw our application."

 

Commissioners requested a detailed traffic and economic analysis of what would happen if the complex was approved, and some believed Konover hadn't provided enough details in its application.

 

Konover provided information on the perimeter roads of the complex, but not those that led to it. That was a sticking point for commissioners who believed 20,000 daily trips to the complex would impact local roads.

 

"They realized that what they were proposing wasn't greeted with great enthusiasm by the commission," said commissioner Judy Wick.

Commissioner Mark Tedesco said he wanted to be sure the complex wouldn't cost more in police, fire and public works services than what would be brought in by taxes. He also wasn't impressed with Konover's presentation.

 

"A multimillion-dollar operation ... and you're going to sneeze at something like $50,000?" he said. "Is that going to break the bank?"

 

However, representatives from Konover differed. They believed a peer review of the information they provided in the application could be done, but should cost about $7,500.

Corporation representatives claimed they didn't have tenants confirmed for the complex, but past Konover projects include stores such as Target, Kohl's and Best Buy.

Konover representatives said they would conduct another traffic study after tenants had been confirmed for the site. That was expected to cost more than $58,000.

In addition to the complex, the corporation had offered to sweeten the proposal by installing an athletic field for the town to use, and improve roads, all at a cost of about $2 million to $21/2 million.

 

"We are confident the commercial center would have been a tremendous asset to Watertown," Glantz said.

 

"It would have provided Watertown residents with easier access to national retailers, made new athletic fields available to Watertown children and added nearly $1 million in net new tax revenue annually," Glantz said.