Club eyes tax breaks on purchase of land

Posted Aug. 04, 2009, at 11:31 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:12 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Appalachian Mountain Club will seek tax breaks from the Piscataquis County commissioners for the club’s planned purchase of 29,500 acres from Plum Creek, officials said Tuesday.

The land is adjacent to the club’s Little Lyford Camps near Roach Ponds, said Rob Burbank, AMC’s public affairs director. It also connects to the 37,000-acre Katahdin Iron Works tract that AMC purchased in 2003.

“The Maine Woods Initiative, of which this would be a part, is a plan to address the ecological and economic needs of the region and also to provide new recreational opportunities and to help attract new, nature-based tourism to the region,” Burbank said Tuesday.

The purchase is contingent, Burbank said, upon the Land Use Regulation Commission giving final approval to Plum Creek’s Moosehead Lake proposal, which covers a 450,000-acre area. LURC has given its preliminary approval to the plan.

AMC will hold a presentation for the commissioners at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 18 on the tax increment financing deal it seeks in connection with the purchase, County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte said Tuesday. Tax increment financing is among the state’s leading tools for aiding economic development. When a town or other local government entity such as a county sees an increase in valuation created by an investment such as AMC’s land purchase, it also may experience a reduction in its share of state revenues and an increase in taxes it pays.

A TIF allows a town or county to “shelter” the new valuation from the calculation of state revenue sharing, education subsidy and tax assessment, in effect creating more money for the local government. With a TIF, however, the money that a town or county gains must be invested in community development projects.

Under state law, local governments can keep the sheltered value for 30 years. Entities such as AMC or its camps typically receive the sheltered-value benefits for 20 years. The Little Lyford camp is among three the AMC owns in the area, officials said.

At their meeting Tuesday, the Piscataquis County commissioners expressed concern that the AMC purchase would limit “traditional rights access” to the parcel of land, particularly with motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles and ATVs. The AMC generally allows only nonmotorized uses, such as biking and hiking, on its trails. Burbank said he did not know what trail use would occur within the 29,500 acres.

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