Rehab of lot at former Stevenson Lumber property leads to tax relief

Once an empty building on the former Stevenson Lumber property, 1565 Monroe Turnpike is now home for five businesses and one church.

MONROE, CT — Anthony Galbo, president of Galbo Provisions Inc., whose refrigerated trucks have been delivering meat to wholesale customers for over 45 years, decided to move his family’s business to Monroe three years ago, when his company had outgrown its Fairfield headquarters.

He found a lot on the former Stevenson Lumber property at 1565 Monroe Turnpike that met his business’ needs, but massive improvements were needed.

He invested over $5,250,574 into rehabilitating the vacant building and landscaping the grounds in a project that included a number of green initiatives.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the doubling of costs for labor and materials, but Galbo managed to complete the project in just over two-and-a-half years. Now the property is home to Galbo Provisions and five commercial tenants.

Galbo said banks had stopped lending during the pandemic, so he reached into his own pocket to finance over half of the project. A letter from one of the banks that backed out is displayed on a wall inside Galbo’s office.

“Words do not describe how taxing this project was on my business, my family and myself,” Galbo said. “This, however, became a passion project. What was once a decrepit lumberyard filled with graffiti and broken glass is now lively and a great entrance into Monroe from Route 111. It is active and will continue to grow for years to come.”

Now Galbo will get some financial relief for his investment.

The Town Council recently approved a commercial tax abatement for Galbo’s business, Catch A Turtle LLC, under a program rewarding businesses who invest in property improvements that enhance the town’s tax base.

After hosting a public hearing, the Monroe Town Council unanimously approved the commercial tax abatement Monday night.

Over the course of seven years, Catch A Turtle LLC,  will receive the maximum abatement of 30 percent of its increased tax assessment annually.

Steps to approval

Prior to the vote, the Tax Incentive Program Review Committee, whose members include First Selectman Terry Rooney, Assessor Justin Feldman, Economic Development Commission Chairman Ray Giovanni and Finance Director Ronald Bunovsky Jr., reviewed the application over the course of two special meetings.

William Holsworth, the director of Community and Economic Development, participated in the meetings and received assurance from Tax Collector Deborah Heim that taxes on the property were up to date.

The TIPRC determined Galbo’s application was eligible because the cost of improvements met the threshold of $3 million-plus and unanimously recommended that it be approved.

Then the application was reviewed by the Town Council’s Legislative & Administrative Committee and Town Attorney Frank Lieto, before moving to the full Council for a hearing and vote.

In an opinion letter dated Feb. 22, Town Attorney Frank Lieto told the first selectman he reviewed the application for the property, “which was subject to extensive rehabilitation.”

“Upon my review, I can confirm that the Application is in order and meets all requirements as established by the Ordinance and at law and is therefore ripe for further consideration by L&A and ultimately, the Town Council,” Lieto wrote.

During Monday’s hearing on the commercial tax abatement application, Galbo spoke, touting the transformation of the Stevenson property to the Town Council. He also shared plans to continue to improve upon it.

Rooney thanked Galbo for his investment in the town as a motivated business owner.

Councilman Jason Maur, who serves on the L&A Committee, said he usually prefers to see a tax abatement schedule that begins with the maximum abatement of 30 percent, before tailing off in the last years, instead of awarding the maximum all the way through.

That way, Maur said the Council could reserve awarding maximum assessments only for exceptional circumstances.

However, Maur said he supported Galbo’s application because of his commitment to continuing to improve his property, as well as for his business’ generosity to the community.

Galbo Provisions has made thousands of dollars worth of donations to the community, including the Wolfe’s Den playground project at Wolfe Park.

Councilwoman Cathy Kohut asked if increased costs to the town were considered when approving the abatement. Chairman Jonathan Formichella said no and Kohut said, “oh.” Formichella said the Planning and Zoning Commission considers that during approval of the project.

Then the Town Council unanimously approved the commercial tax abatement.

The improvements

Galbo bought the property in Stevenson for $995,000 and invested over $5,250,574 to rehabilitate the property and building. This included a full overhaul of the building, installation of refrigerated coolers, landscaping, paving and major improvements to the property as a whole, according to the commercial tax abatement application.

The project was led by Kimball Family Construction, as the general contractor overseeing the work of other vendors. As a result, Galbo said the entire building is up to the current code.

Among the green initiatives were:

  • Updating vegetation to include native species of plants
  • Installing solar on the building
  • Installing motion sensor lights
  • Painting the building a lighter color to reduce heat load during warmer months
  • Installing propane heaters
  • Insulating the building
  • Removing some asphalt and installing grass and landscaping to reduce environmental impact.

Galbo said the rehabbed space allowed for the retention of all jobs at his business and for the creation of new five new positions. The project also brought in new businesses, dozens of jobs and new employers to the town of Monroe, he added.

Among the business tenants are Dwight Hall LLC, JADAR Building Materials, Bethel International Ministries, My Color Events, and Valley Provisions.

“The fiscal impact of this project on Monroe will be significant,” Galbo wrote in his application. “A property that was considered a blight is now a thriving business park. This includes new tax revenue and new tax dollars for local businesses. We’ve already made thousands of dollars in donations to local projects such as the Wolfe’s Den playground to support our new community.”

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1 Comment

  1. I live across the street from the old Stevenson Lumber yard. The lights are not on motion sensors. The lights are on from dusk to dawn. They were supposed to have dark sky lighting, but it is not dark sky lighting. Even the trees behind my house, which are at a significant higher elevation, are lit up dusk to dawn. This is very detrimental to migrating birds and animals that hunt at night. When I would go out at night to take my dog out, the light was directly in my eyes so I can imagine how disturbing this is for wildlife. Last year I filed a zoning complaint about the lights and John Kimball came out and said hoods would be put on the lights. I have not seen any improvement. I’m going to file another zoning complaint.

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