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December 21, 2015

777 Main developer balks at MDC’s $474K fee

When New Haven architect-developer Bruce Becker acquired downtown Hartford's former Bank of America tower at 777 Main St., he thought he'd paid for everything on the property — lock, stock and water/sewer service.

But a unanimous vote last week from the Metropolitan District Commission's Water Bureau affirmed its stance that Becker, who converted the former office high-rise into 285 apartments, essentially must pay again to stay connected to its regional water-sewer network, to the tune of $1,655 per apartment unit, or a bill totaling $474,425.

The reason: Under an ordinance MDC embraced in 1995, any building within its service territory that is converted to a new or expanded use is subject to the extra water-sewer connection assessment.

Under that definition, the half-dozen other downtown Hartford office-to-apartment conversions either completed or underway likely received similar MDC assessment notices. Several developers contacted either declined comment or asked for more time to check their records.

The Water Bureau's decision awaits ratification from MDC's full board. MDC couldn't be reached for comment.

Becker, through his lawyers, has been going back and forth with MDC over the extra assessment since at least early 2014, after MDC notified him of its intent to impose the extra charge. 777 Main's units are sub-metered, so tenants pay their own water-sewer bills. The extra assessment reflects the service connection, not usage, Becker said.

More than the financial burden the assessment adds to his 777 Main conversion budget, Becker says what chafes him more is that he submitted to MDC a list of all the low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads installed in the building, plus other data purporting to show the building's water-sewer use is less.

As he weighs his options, Becker insists that he never asked MDC to waive the fee.

“ … Even a cursory review of our submission,'' Becker said via e-mail, “shows clearly that 777 Main is not seeking a waiver — but just asking MDC to abide by their own rules, which only impose an assessment if there is an intensification of use.''

– Gregory Seay

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