In November of 2008, the town of Waterford – a company that has developed properties throughout Connecticut – to install a retail shopping center on Route 85, complete with two large buildings for stores and a third for a restaurant.
The deal fell apart though when one of Benderson’s major anchors, Circuit City, went out of business and, with the economy crumbling, the company couldn’t find a replacement. The project is still not built, with Benderson's permit set to expire in 2013.
Although not anymore. A new state law has now extended the period of land-use permits in the time where the construction bubble burst, from 2006 to 2011, from five years to nine years. The law was pushed by the Home Builders Association of Connecticut, who argued the construction industry has 20 to 30 percent unemployment, and this was one way to help it.
“That bill would prevent the wholesale abandonment of approved projects and activities due to the present unfavorable economic conditions by essentially tolling the term of existing approvals for a brief period of time that will allow the economy, markets and lending to recover, preventing a waste of public and private resources,” the association wrote in a letter to state legislators.
The bill became law in May of 2011 with a signature by Gov. Dannel Malloy. The law extends the life of land-use and wetlands permits various lengths, depending on their use, but extends most permits approved before July of 2011 to nine years instead of five.
Generally, land-use permits have a five-year life where the developer has to get a building permit on the project and start working on it. This new law allows developers more time, as many permits were issued from 2006 to 20011 but the project was never built, thanks to a down economy.
The law drew little opposition from planning departments across Connecticut. Waterford Planning Director Tom Wagner, who has been a planning director for 29 years, said most of these towns want the project to be built, even if it is eight years later.
“When the (Planning and Zoning Commission) approves something, we expect for it to be built,” Wagner said.
Wagner also said though that getting a permit reapproved is generally “not that difficult.” But this law does save time for both towns and developers, he said.