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Brunswick councilors weigh renewal of Cook's Corner TIF

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Brunswick councilors weigh renewal of Cook's Corner TIF

BRUNSWICK — A request to renew the Cook's Corner Tax Increment Financing District in order to fund road improvements there could come with a catch for east Brunswick.

The Town Council first heard the proposal at Tuesday's meeting. Although the council tabled the discussion, there were early signs that Town Manager Gary Brown's request could generate some debate. 

Brown said the Cook's Corner TIF was originally created about 20 years ago to fund utility extension on Bath Road. The town has since paid off the bonding for that work, which means the TIF will expire in October.

Now the town wants to extend the TIF so it can use the proceeds from frozen land values to fund about $2 million in road work near the Bath Road-Thomas Point intersection. However, Brown is also proposing that the council reduce the acreage covered by the existing district so that it can be used elsewhere.

Councilor David Watson, who represents most of east Brunswick, said that part of the proposal may not rest well with his constituents. 

"I've heard that we're taking away part of (the district) in east Brunswick to go in-town," Watson said. "I hope that's not the case."

State statue allows municipalities to allocate up to 5 percent of land area to TIFs. Brown estimated that Brunswick is currently at about 3.5 percent.

Asked if shrinking the Cook's Corner district would have a negative outcome for east Brunswick, Brown said he preferred to describe the effort as making the town's TIF districts more efficient by shedding excess real estate. He added that the existing district covered areas that no longer required improvement.

JHR Development, the developer of the $23.5 million Maine Street Station project, has previously requested a TIF. Brown said the two districts are "independent of each other."

"The Maine Street Station TIF area is pretty concise," he said. "We're not pressed for (available TIF acreage) to make that happen."

Nevertheless, it appears any shrinking of the Cook's Corner TIF will benefit downtown. District 6 Councilor Margo Knight said Tuesday that there is a possibility of enlarging the in-town district to pay "for some things" there.

Although the council tabled the proposal Tuesday, it will be asked to make a decision quickly. If the council allows the existing Cook's Corner TIF to expire, it could lose proceeds of land values frozen for about 10 years. 

Councilor Karen Klatt wondered why the town had waited so long to bring the proposal forward.

"In the future I'd ask things like this not wait and be so critical," Klatt said.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to begin negotiating with the Brunswick Downtown Association to become the property manager of the town's train station and welcome center at Maine Street Station.

Earlier this summer the council voted to lease the train station space from JHR Development. The town then sought proposals for a property manager. The BDA was the only organization to respond. 

The council's vote on Tuesday authorized Brown to continue negotiations with the BDA, after which the Maine Street Station Oversight Committee will send the agreement to the council for ratification. 

The property management contract will be the final act of the oversight committee. The council voted unanimously Tuesday to dissolve the group, which was created in 2008 to replace the Maine Street Station Implementation Committee.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net