December 28, 2012

Consultant urges Farmington to create downtown tax-financing district

Tax increment financing district would set aside portion of property taxes to help finance public improvements, boost downtown marketing

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON -- A new downtown area tax credit is being proposed to help fund downtown development projects.

Eaton Peabody Consulting Group recommends the town create a tax increment financing district to help fund the downtown development plan.

The proposed tax would apply to new projects and new projects within the yet to be defined boundaries of the downtown district.

Town selectmen must review the recommendations for development made by the consulting group, which consultant John Holden said will likely happen at the Tuesday, Jan. 8, selectmen's meeting.

Town Manager Richard Davis said he thinks that the selectmen will strongly consider the measure.

"It's a good economic development tool," he said.

If the selectmen move forward with the recommendation, the proposed tax district would then be voted on at the next town meeting.

As part of the new tax district, the town also could choose to offer investors a credit enhancing agreement, which is an agreement between the town and a developer to return part of the tax on an annual basis. Holden said credit enhancing agreements would let the town offer incentives to private companies looking to invest in the downtown.

Holden said that after the final draft is adopted but before the measure is voted on, he will hold public informational meetings to explain how a tax increment financing district would work.

The proposed district's boundaries are yet to be defined, but Holden said it would include some portion of the downtown.

Consultants suggested the town create the tax district to fund infrastructure projects such as a Sandy River bridge, downtown public restrooms, a parking structure, new streetlights and improved sidewalks.

The tax district revenues would also be used to support the downtown by funding advertising and staff for downtown events.

The downtown development plan is a list of recommendations commissioned by the town to promote economic development.

kschroeder@mainetoday.com

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