DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A proposal by the Appalachian Mountain Club for a tax increment financing district on property it owns in Unorganized Territory was advanced Tuesday to Piscataquis County commissioners.
AMC, which was founded in 1876, owns about 37,000 acres in its Katahdin Iron Works, or KIW, tract and is purchasing about 28,000 acres in the Roach Pond area. The Roach Pond tract is considered a critical link to protect the corridor of land from Katahdin Iron Works to Baxter State Park and Katahdin from residential development. Once the Roach Pond tract is purchased, AMC will have invested about $45 million in Maine.
Public workshops on the TIF will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 8, at the Greenville Town Office, and 7 p.m. Sept. 9, at the Brownville Junction Alumni House. A public hearing on the TIF is set for 9 a.m. Oct. 6, in the county courthouse. If there is interest from the public, the hearing may be rescheduled to an evening hour. The commissioners are expected to act on the TIF at their Oct. 20 meeting.
A 30-year TIF district in the Unorganized Territory will capture all the new tax revenues, John Holden, economic development specialist for Eaton Peabody in Bangor, said Tuesday. Holden, who is working with the commissioners on the project, said the bottom line is it allows the county to keep the new tax money, all of it, except for perhaps paying upfront the costs associated with its development.
Gerry Whiting of AMC told the commissioners Tuesday that AMC planned to make investments of about $1.5 million to the Medawisla Wilderness Lodge, about $1.3 million to the Chairback Mountain camps and plans some improvements to Little Lyford Pond Camps.
“We’re excited that Appalachian Mountain Club has chosen Piscataquis County and is willing to invest $3 million-plus,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday. “If we can develop a TIF that helps you [AMC] in your plans to move forward and also provides a sustainable fund the county really doesn’t have right now to promote Piscataquis and perhaps work on our tourism infrastructure, I think that it potentially is a win-win situation for Appalachian Mountain Club, for Piscataquis County, and the businesses that are located here.”
While a TIF will help AMC obtain a low-interest, tax-advantage financing program for the Roach Pond tract purchase, it is designed to help “channel” the new taxes on the new investments back into county coffers to be used for nature-based tourism, trails and marketing, according to Walter Graff, AMC’s deputy director.
“Of all the things we’re very committed [to] in this whole process, is to sort of lift up the economy of Piscataquis County,” Graff told the commissioners Tuesday. The public relations AMC is involved in helps the region’s local businesses as well, he said.
Such a project could bring the county about $500,000 over the 30-year term, the commissioners were told.
AMC’s investment in Maine has been financed by private commitments, not all is cash, and some financial commitments are over multiple years, so some financing is needed, according to Bruce Glabe, AMC’s chief financial officer. He said AMC plans to finance the purchase of the Roach Pond tract as it did with the KIW property. Both tracts will be in the TIF district.
“Over time, our plan is to have a self-sustaining project in this area that supports itself forever, we hope,” Graff said. The sources of revenue to do that would be from fees and occupancy, timber harvesting and a permanent endowment.
AMC is a not-for-profit organization but does pay property taxes on the property it owns, by design, the commissioners were told.
But for AMC’s legal and counseling costs in establishing the TIF, the balance of the incremental taxes AMC would pay would go directly to the county with the understanding it be used for economic development purposes.