NORWALK, Conn. — Most people who offered an opinion on Manresa Island would prefer a passive reuse of the property, with open pathways through marshland and forests.
Problem is, that use would generate no property tax revenue from a property that currently provides Norwalk with $565,000 a year.
That’s the word from Fitzgerald & Halliday, a firm hired by Norwalk and the Manresa Association to do an economic impact analysis of the island and its mothballed power plant, at a $150,000 cost that was split by the city and the Association. The idea of the analysis is to get ahead of the game and be ready with information should NRG, the current owner of the 155-acre island and its closed power plant, decide to sell the property.
Fitzgerald & Halliday is looking to present a refined conceptual plan to the public in October, followed by more public input and a final plan in December, according to a PowerPoint presentation from a Sept. 25 workshop in City Hall, provided to NancyOnNorwalk by Manresa Association President Charlie Taney.
The PowerPoint presents much information, including a review of estimates for remediation of the coal ash that were announced at the last workshop session: according to a 2013 document, it would cost $32.8 to $35.8 million to take down the power plant and do what was referred to in July as a “shallow excavation” of the coal ash.
The PowerPoint states:
- The 2017 assessed value of land and structures of the southern parcel, which includes the power plant, is $22,575,661. This is 0.189 percent of Norwalk’s grand list.
- This generates $565,000 in property tax revenue per year ($6.38 per capita).
- A transfer of the property to a non-profit entity would result in a loss of property tax revenue that would likely require an increase in the city’s mill rate to replace the lost revenue.
An online survey drew 674 responses, with about 80 percent of the opinion favoring public passive open space, i.e., a nature area that people could enjoy; about 68 percent preferred conservation land, 20 percent said residential development would be preferable and 6 percent preferred office space.
Fitzgerald & Halliday went on to explore various options, concepts that “are geometrically feasible, but may not be feasible from a financial or environmental basis,” according to the PowerPoint.
A marina could generate a nearly the revenue that the property produces now and a high-value, low density housing development could bring in a little more than the dilapidated plant, the PowerPoint states. But the most lucrative development for the site would be the one almost everyone abhors – a series of six-story apartment buildings.
A theoretical 400 residential units spread out in four buildings could bring in $5 million a year to Norwalk, according to the study.
The PowerPoint states:
- The property could accommodate a 20 acre 4.3 MWh solar farm, which would power approximately 600 homes, producing $1.5 million per year of electricity (at $0.222 per KWh). This solar farm would not be readily visible from surrounding properties, but solar farm equipment is exempt from local property taxes.
A marina with 64 boat slips and 16-acre boat yard could fit on the property, with a club house or resort building on the southwestern corner of site. This could generate more than $500,000 per year in property tax revenue. While this is based upon valuations of comparable development types in Norwalk, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.
- A low density/high value residential development would feature 11 two- to four-acre parcels and could generate approximately $600,000 per year in property tax revenue, which would fully replace the existing tax revenue from the site. Again, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.
- A medium density residential development could feature 68 lots, 33 at water’s edge and 35 inland, with lot sizes between .25 and .75 acres. This could generate up to $1.4 million in tax revenue per year, a 240 percent increase over existing tax revenues. (Once again, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.)
- A high density/mid-rise residential development could feature four six-story buildings with 100 residential units in each building, a total 400 residential units and 1 million square feet of floor space. The assessed value could be as high as $500,000 per unit for a total assessed value of up to $200 million, which would generate up to $5 million in tax revenue per year. (Don’t forget, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.)
Demolishing the power plant, which was estimated in 2013 to cost between $6 and $9 million, would increase neighboring property values, the PowerPoint states, going on to state that 288 properties have a view of the Manresa power plant and/or smokestack. Those properties have a total assessed value of $467,780,489 and generate $11,902,207 per year in property taxes.
If the property values went up 5 percent, Norwalk would see an additional $595,110 in yearly property taxes; if it were 10 percent the gain would be $1,190,221; 15 percent would mean an $1,785,331 increase and 20 percent would mean a $2,380,441 increase.
Asked what would happen next, Taney in a Sunday email said, “The consultant is conducting another round of an online survey to get public input. The first one a few months ago drew over 600 responses. We’re hoping for a similar response for the second online survey. It will go out in the next few days.”