Judge: Redding has right to collect unpaid taxes from Wire Mill developers
A judge in Connecticut Superior Court has ruled the Town of Redding has the primary right to collect unpaid taxes from the Georgetown Land Development Company (GLDC) — which owns and once planned to develop the Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill site.
The taxes are legally owed to the Georgetown Special Taxing District, a taxing body that has a Board of Directors made up entirely of GLDC-affiliated members.
In short, the judge — Grant Miller of the Complex Litigation Docket — ruled the town has tax lien priority over the special taxing district.
He notes as correct the town's argument: That giving the special taxing district tax collection priority would "'cause the absurd result of both empowering and incentivizing the project's developer to render the town's taxes virtually unenforceable simply by putting on paper that is has taxed but not paid itself tens of millions of dollars.'
"Indeed, there does not seem to be anything absurd or unworkable about giving a town's liens priority over those of a taxing district in that town whose board is controlled by a single corporation that is virtually its only landowner as a way to prevent precisely the hazard to which the plaintiffs refer," he continued, in his own words.
The town commenced foreclosure proceedings against the property in June 2015 after multiple meetings with owners and creditors, with unpaid property taxes, interest and lien fees totaling over $2.8 million.
"[The Judge has] agreed with the town's argument, and we are very pleased," said First Selectman Julia Pemberton this afternoon. "This puts the town in a good position — the best possible decision to continue to resolve this in a way that we hope will finally move the project forward."
She said the town's largest desire is to see the property developed and returned to the tax rolls.
"Hopefully this will help the project move forward. There are still so many pieces, but this is an excellent ruling for the town," she said.
Wire Mill site
The status of the development project at the Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill site, stalled since 2008, remains largely unchanged.
The 50-acre brownfield site is considered a model for Transit Oriented Development and the adaptive reuse of one of Connecticut’s few remaining historic mill sites.
An approved master plan for redevelopment of the historic site envisions a vibrant mixed-use community anchored by historic mill buildings which are to be adaptively restored and reused.
An economic impact study in 2004 detailed the positive fiscal impact of the project to Fairfield County and Redding in new job creation, net new tax revenues, and an improved quality of life for area residents, while removing the blight of a defunct mill property and returning it to productive use.
In 2014, the State Department of Economic Development approved a $5.6 million grant to the Georgetown Special Taxing District — $2 million to reconstruct the river walls and $3.6 million to complete intersection work.
To date, the Georgetown Special Taxing District has not been able to meet the terms of the grant to secure the funding and begin the work.