Bucksport eyes downtown TIF district

Posted Dec. 16, 2010, at 7:38 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:53 a.m.

BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town councilors are considering whether to establish downtown tax incentives to encourage improvements and development in the downtown area.

The town’s economic development committee has proposed creating a tax increment financing district for the downtown area. A TIF district would allow the town to allocate any new tax revenues from improvement on existing commercial properties or new businesses in the proposed area to economic development projects within that area.

As proposed, the district would include the area bounded by Main Street, including the waterfront, from the mill entrance to Bridge Street and the south side of Franklin Street from Mill Street to the mill. The overall goal is to encourage development in the downtown area in order to create jobs and improve the town’s tax base.

The town has previously created TIF districts, twice for the paper mill in town and also for the Hillside Business Park which houses the Family Dollar Store.

According to David Milan, the town’s economic development director, the funds generated through a new downtown tax increment financing district would be restricted for use within the district and would fund improvements to public facilities and infrastructure as well as for improvements to the properties within the district.

“We would use the TIF as a funding mechanism for enhancements to downtown that benefit the downtown area,” Milan said.

As part of the process, the town also would have to create a development plan that would identify specific areas where TIF funds could be spent within the district.

Milan pointed out that the town adopted a downtown revitalization plan in 2006.

Although some of the projects in that plan, such as the combined sewer overflow facility, the creation of the Peary Landing area and the extension of the waterfront walkway, already have been completed, Milan said there are still a number of projects remaining that would qualify for funding and could be included in an updated or new downtown development plan.

Among those projects, he said, is the redevelopment of the west end of the waterfront walkway and, improvements to the Webber docks that would allow larger cruise ships to visit the town.

“That could open some doors for us,” Milan said.

TIF funds also could be used for other incentives such as a local revolving loan fund that could enable shop owners and potential developers to borrow money to improve properties within the district.

“This could open up a lot of different opportunities within the district,” he said.

The town’s economic development committee is made up of 14 members, including three councilors. The other members are mostly business owners and all are appointed by the council.

Town councilors last week got their first look at the committee’s TIF district proposal, and Town Manager Roger Raymond indicated Thursday that councilors likely will hold a workshop on the issue during their regular meeting in January.

If the council approves the creation of the TIF district and the development plan, both would require approval from the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

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