Wednesday, December 11, 2013
GARDINER — City councilors will discuss the possibility of granting a tax incentive for a proposed business park on Brunswick Avenue and consider alternate heating sources for the wastewater treatment plant at their meeting Wednesday.
The meeting is set to be held at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Gregory Farris of Farris Law requested the city create a tax-increment financing district for a 27-acre parcel on Brunswick Avenue across the street from Libby Hill Road and provide credit enhancement to help defray the cost of developing a commercial subdivision.
Farris Law has two offices in downtown Gardiner and one in Freeport. The firm has been based in Gardiner for 40 years, according to Farris.
The first tenant of the business park would be a consolidated office for the law firm, but the point of the venture is to create a larger development with offices for other professionals looking to locate in the Gardiner area, Farris said.
He said professionals with retail office-type business in southern cities like Portland are interested in setting up shop in the Gardiner area.
Tax-increment financing, or TIFs, allow municipalities to freeze the value of properties on the tax rolls and use the tax revenues that would have been earned from the future developments for set uses, including giving it back to the developer in the form of credit enhancements.
City Manager Scott Morelli said the proposal from Farris meets the city's requirements for a TIF and credit enhancements, but that councilors need more information about the details before deciding to move forward and hold a public hearing.
Part of the appeal of granting a TIF is Farris has said he could move his law firm out of Gardiner, Morelli said.
Farris said he has been asked to relocate to two other cities but would like to stay in Gardiner. He declined to name the other cities to which he has been asked to move.
"The reason I think the city would want to do this is they're going to have zero costs and zero future costs," Farris said. He anticipates the development would become a business incubator for the area.
Nate Rudy, director of economic and community development for the city, previously said in an email to Morelli that he thought the potential development would compete with the city's Libby Hill Business Park. He has since said the types of potential businesses for the two parks would be different, with Libby Hill Business Park drawing more warehouse and manufacturing businesses.
The council could also decide on a new heating source for the Gardiner Wastewater Treatment Plant.
A consultant that performed a study for the city, Woodard & Curran, recommended converting to natural gas from heating oil, but the Wastewater Advisory Board recommended thermal effluent, the second most cost-effective option, Morelli said. A councilor also suggested looking at wood pellets as an option.
The plant spends $21,000 a year for No. 2 oil. Natural gas would cost $7,000 a year and $98,000 to convert, according to Morelli.
Thermal effluent would have around $150,000 in conversion costs but save about $2,000 more a year. Wood pellets would cost $10,000 a year with a $113,000 conversion cost.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663