Connecticut: State and Local Government News
Advocacy Alert - DECD Budget Hearing
Tuesday, February 11
The Appropriations Committee will hold public hearings about this budget. Arts and culture fall under the Department of Economic and Community Development, so the relevant hearing is this Tuesday, February 11 in room 2C of the Legislative Office Building beginning at 5 pm.
There are two ways to participate in this process:
And/or Submit written testimony - send an email to APPtestimony@cga.ct.gov
It is important to personalize your testimony, but here are our key recommendations that align with the legislative priorities of CT Arts Alliance:
- Dedicate and codify 40% to Arts + Culture and 60% to Tourism in the Tourism Fund
- Change the name from Tourism Fund to Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund
- Allocate 25% of existing Lodging Tax into the Tourism Fund (compared to current allocation of 10%)
- Ensure that any excess revenue in the Tourism Fund is appropriated annually and shared equally among all line items, which includes “Arts Commission” (Office of the Arts), “Statewide Tourism Marketing” (Office of Tourism), CT Humanities, and direct line items to arts, cultural and tourism entities and consortiums; do not add new line items
- Ensure the Administration and legislators consult with CT Arts Alliance and CT Tourism Coalition for decisions that impact the arts, cultural, and tourism industries
- Encourage the Tourism Fund, as a whole, to have additional and new dedicated revenue sources without increasing the Lodging Tax rate
As a reminder: Information about the Tourism Fund
The Tourism Fund invests in the Connecticut experience – building vibrant communities, attracting tourists and employers, and boosting our economy.
What is it? The Tourism Fund (TF) is a non-lapsing special fund, separate from the general fund, that is solely funded by a dedicated revenue source.
How is it funded? CT levies a 15% occupancy tax on hotel stays up to 30 days in length. 10% of the total tax revenue collected by DRS is deposited into the TF after every quarter.
What does TF fund? The TF fund invests in arts, culture and tourism through a variety of line items in the budget appropriated by legislators. TF currently funds:
- CT Office of the Arts (Arts Commission) – *state investment matched by nearly $1M federal National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) dollars
- Grants to arts and cultural organizations, artists, and community arts projects
- Statewide initiatives (Arts Workforce Initiative, Arts Day, etc.)
- Designated Regional Service Organizations
- CT Office of Tourism (Statewide Tourism Marketing)
- CTVisit.com, social media, marketing of CT in other states, research and data
- Statewide initiatives (CT Open House Day, The Big E, Made in CT)
- Tourism Districts (eastern, central, western)
- Arts, Cultural & Tourism Direct Line Items (individual organizations and consortiums)
- CT Humanities – * state investment matched by $800k in federal National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funding
- Grants and support services for institutions in the humanities, including but not limited to libraries, museums and historical and cultural societies and associations
How does TF benefit CT? The TF investments provide:
- Operating support to anchor institutions that drive economic and community development and tourism
- Program and project support to arts and cultural institutions events, community programs, arts education and local arts projects and initiatives that help attract and retain residents, employers and employees
- Funding to the Office of the Arts and CT Humanities is re-granted through hundreds of competitive grants statewide reaching nearly every municipality
- Support for the nine Designated Regional Service Organizations to maintain a statewide network of arts and cultural agencies
- Tourism marketing to position the state as a prime destination for leisure and business travelers
What is unique about TF? Legislators cannot “sweep” funds from TF, unless this was mandated through legislation and TF, like all special funds, is not subject to potential general fund rescissions from the Governor
What if there is more or less money in TF? Revenue collection + deposits into the TF are administrative while the spending + budget process are legislative; meaning:
- The biannual budget is set legislatively based on the estimated size of TF
- If TF has more or less money than budgeted for an upcoming year, the governor + legislators will decide how to accommodate for that change during budget process
Stonington Inland Wetlands Commission Approves First Phase Permit for Perkins Farm Campus
The Stonington Inland Wetlands Commission has approved a permit for the first phase of the Perkins Farm Campus Project, a four-story, 121-unit apartment building on Jerry Browne Road in Mystic. It is the part of a 71-acre master plan to include medical offices as well as the residential piece.
Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce President Peggy Roberts testified in favor of the project at Thursday night’s public hearing preceding the commission vote. Other organizations advocating for the project included Mystic Aquarium, Olde Mistick Village, StoneRidge Retirement Community and the Stonington Economic Development Commission.
The property has several areas of wetland but the development team assured the commission these areas will not be adversely affected by the plan. Groton developer David Lattizori’s team walked the commission through a detailed plan to manage the water on the property. One neighbor, whose driveway is located close to the projects secondary access road, opposed the plan.
The vote clears the way for Lattizori to seek site plan approval of the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission.
Stonington EDC PoV by Dave Hammond, Chair
The Stonington EDC will provide a brief Point of View report for inclusion in the GMCC Newsletter on a variety of topics. The first report puts in context the Substantial Improvements regulation amendment in look-back period from five to one year, approved at the January 16, 2018 PZC meeting. Subsequent PoV reports will provide insights to the Stonington economy and ongoing EDC projects of interest to the business community.
On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, the PZC voted to amend the look-back period in the Substantial Improvement regulation from five years to one. The regulation had stipulated that improvements costing greater than 50% of the value of the property - cumulative over five years - could not exceed 50% of the property's value. If that figure was exceeded and the property was located in a flood zone, the building would be required to meet flood plain codes and be raised one foot above Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The requirement is often not practical for downtown village areas or for historic structures. For example, a three-story mixed-use building of historic value in downtown Pawcatuck in need of TLC and valued at $200K could receive only $100K improvements over five years, clearly limiting flexibility for redevelopment, and even maintenance and upkeep.
Why is this important? Our two bordering Towns – Groton and Westerly – have a one-year look-back. The difference in investment and development patterns is palpable. The 5-year look-back had caused an unintended consequence with visible economic cost including deferred maintenance, declining property values, lower tax base, vacancies, and a paucity of investment.
The Stonington EDC has contributed to several other initiatives intended to spur investment in downtown Pawcatuck. In September 2017, an effort led by the EDC and the Town Department of Planning resulted in contemporized zoning (Pawcatuck Village - PV-5) that encourages greater density and mixed-uses, critical for vibrant village areas. In May 2017, a similar effort led to updated zoning for the Mechanic Street mills (Heritage Mill District - HMD) to contemporize potential uses given that the demand for large-scale manufacturing has diminished. The EDC will be continuing to look at new tools that can be added to the investor / developer / property owner tool box to facilitate revitalization in this historic neighborhood, and preserve its important place in Stonington's heritage.
For comments and questions about this PoV, please contact Dave Hammond: firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-501-3727 (c)