DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Appalachian Mountain Club has scrapped its plan to seek a Tax Increment Financing District on Unorganized Territory land.
AMC and Piscataquis County commissioners had been moving forward on the TIF request and had scheduled two workshops when county officials learned earlier this month that a change had been made in the administration of TIFs.
“It just seemed like there was just so much uncertainty surrounding it,” Walter Graf, AMC’s deputy director, said Tuesday, in regard to dropping the TIF request.
The state Legislature basically had cut off eligibility for any TIF projects in the Unorganized Territory since July 2008 after TIFs were granted for two large wind power projects in Washington and Franklin counties. Because TIFs were new to the Unorganized Territory, the Legislature appointed a special task force to study the issue and to report back to the Legislature in 2010.
While Piscataquis County could pursue and pass a TIF district for Appalachian Mountain Club or anyone else in the UT, the change means the TIF would sit idle and the state tax assessor would be unable to pay out any funds from the TIF project.
The not-for-profit club, which owns about 37,000 acres in the Katahdin Iron Works region, plans to purchase 28,000 acres in the neighboring Roach Pond area. The club sees the new acquisition as an opportunity to protect from residential development the corridor of land from Katahdin Iron Works to Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin.
“We’re still committed to Piscataquis County and we’re still committed to doing the projects we set out to do, we’re just going to look for other alternatives,” Graf said.
Not everyone is pleased with AMC’s planned purchase of the Roach Pond tract. The Millinocket Town Council sent a letter to Piscataquis County commissioners asking that if a TIF were granted, that the agreement include a provision to protect the existing public and expanded uses of the property.
Having the land designated as a TIF district would have helped AMC obtain low-interest, tax-advantage financing for the Roach Pond tract purchase and improvements at its three wilderness camps: Medawisla Wilderness Lodge, Chairback Mountain Camps and Little Lyford Pond Camps. The purchase and the improvements are estimated at $45 million.
The TIF would have allowed AMC participation in the New Markets Tax Credit program, which is an opportunity to receive a credit against income taxes and the county would have benefited from the new taxes on the improvements.
“We are trying to build nature-based tourism in the region and we’re hoping some of the skeptics will start to see that nature-based tourism is a benefit to the region,” Graf said.