Home » Meeting on role of EDC reveals frustrations

Meeting on role of EDC reveals frustrations

WINSTED — Just what is the role of the Economic Development Commission when it comes to getting new businesses into town? That subject was the center of a tense debate that took place Tuesday, March 6, at Town Hall.Town Manager Dale Martin was invited by the commission to discuss the duties of the EDC. He told members that, after conducting research into state and local statutes, the commission has overstepped its role on certain occasions.“State statutes specifically say that the commission shall conduct research of economic conditions and trends,” Martin said. “The statutes add that the commission shall make recommendations to persons and agencies in order to improve economic conditions. I know that in the past there have been times where this board has granted approvals or has had applicants come forth seeking approval for planning and zoning issues. Those issues are for the Planning and Zoning Commission, not the Economic Development Commission.”Martin said that if potential owners speak to members of the commission, the best thing members can do is to point them to Town Hall staff, including the planning office and town manager’s office.“That way we can walk them through the process to get the appropriate zoning approvals,” Martin said. “That is what we are supposed to do at Town Hall instead of having the commission doing it. You can’t shepherd them through the approval process without knowing what the regulations and restrictions are by the Planning and Zoning Commission or by building officials. It’s a learning process for all of us to figure out. We have this wonderful energy and enthusiasm, but we need to appropriately channel it instead of trying to step on each other as we try to get to the top of the heap. We will all be better off working together.”EDC Chairman Bill Pratt expressed frustration that some business owners have found it difficult to work with Town Hall staff and that the EDC has tried to help potential businesses navigate the process.“The reason for this discussion is that Town Hall officials have a track record where they have not been tuned into the needs of potential business owners and business owners who want to stay in town,” he said. “We heard recently that a prospective business owner came into town and was sent to the building office. Reportedly, after they went to the office, they determined that they did not want to open up a business in Winsted because they ran into problems in that office. Our charge is to attract businesses and retain businesses. Right now, we are faced with a real possibility of losing a long established business in town, and we shouldn’t be experience that.”Martin insisted that the role of the commission is not to worry about regulations impacting businesses from coming to town.“Your charge, under state statute, is to conduct research and make recommendations,” Martin said. “A lot of the other issues that you raised about the business climate are more appropriate to town officials who can review regulatory problems and make the appropriate recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Selectmen. Businesses coming to you serves no purpose whatsoever because you cannot change those regulations.”Pratt continued to disagree with Martin.“It takes forever to get a new business into town,” Pratt said. “I think you have taken the description of the commission in a narrow viewpoint.”Commission member Susie Collier echoed Pratt’s frustrations.“One problem businesses have faced in dealing with Town Hall, and I’m not singling anyone out in particular, is that they are told one thing by a town official one day, and then that official changes their story the next day,” Collier said. “Because of that problem, businesses do look to us for help. They are frustrated that the people they are dealing with in Town Hall are changing their stories around.”“Then you send them to me,” Martin said. “Everybody in Town Hall works for me. You can’t solve their problems. If a person is trying to open a business and if they are getting the runaround, the first response should be that you need to talk to the town manager.”

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