Councilors, developers reach TIF agreement for Brunswick Landing

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BRUNSWICK — A tax deal that has been in the works for nearly three years between the town and developers of the former naval air station is expected to go to a pivotal vote at the end of the month.

On July 29, the Town Council will hold public hearings and vote on a tax increment finance agreement with the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority for properties at Brunswick Landing and Brunswick Executive Airport.

If approved, the agreement could provide MRRA and developers at the former base up to $12 million in tax rebates for infrastructure improvements over a 30-year period.

The town would see benefits, too, including tax revenue specifically allocated for future school construction or other designated projects.

Those benefits and other details of the TIF agreement were discussed by councilors at their Monday meeting.

“This is a plan that addresses everybody’s interests,” said Councilor Ben Tucker, one of the lead negotiators for the tax agreement. “I think (it’s) unquestionably in the interest of overall redevelopment and the creation of jobs in this entire area with the closure of the base.”

The council’s July 29 meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. to make time for deliberations and proposed adjustments to the town’s fiscal year 2014 municipal budget, which shows a revenue shortfall as a result of the biennial state budget.

The TIF districts at Brunswick Landing and Brunswick Executive Airport would capture all new tax revenue generated by MRRA and other developers. That revenue would then be funneled equally into two accounts, one for the town and one for base redevelopment.

The council could then negotiate and approve credit enhancement agreements on a project-by-project basis with MRRA and other developers at the former base, which would provide them with funds for infrastructure improvements from the redevelopment account.

The total amount of funds MRRA and other developers could receive would be capped at $12 million over the 30-year period.

A credit enhancement agreement was established earlier this year between the town and Molnlycke Manufacturing, which will receive nearly $3 million of tax revenue it generates over a 20-year period at Brunswick Landing.

The town would be able to use its funds to work on various projects, some of which would improve infrastructure around Brunswick Landing and Brunswick Executive Airport. 

The funds could also be used for downtown development and school construction and renovations projects.

“The town may use a part of its 50 percent for debt service payments on new school construction or renovation,” Councilor John Richardson, the other lead negotiator for the tax agreement, said. “I think that’s important because we’ve said it many times, and that’s the sale or marketing of base redevelopment – one of those factors is how healthy the school systems are.”

“It helps for recruitment purposes,” Richardson continued. “It makes (MRRA’s) job much easier when you have and you can state you have a first-rate school system and you want to recruit a company to your location.”

The TIF agreement would also help the town shelter new property tax valuation on the former base and prevent an increase in county taxes and decrease in state education aid.

Discussions about a potential TIF agreement between the town and MRRA have been chilly in the last few years, especially after state Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais in March 2012 introduced an amendment to the state budget that would have given MRRA 80 cents for every dollar generated in a TIF agreement.

The amendment failed, but it fueled concerns on the council over losing local control of redevelopment efforts, and prompted councilors to break off TIF negotiations with MRRA last September.

After the town and MRRA eventually mended their relationship, the council voted to resume TIF negotiations with MRRA in March.

“I’m very confident that we’re in very good hands and we’re prepared to join hands and walk together,” Richardson said, “and create the partnership necessary for both the town and MRRA to redevelop the base and send a very strong message nationwide and internationally that … everyone is rooting for and working together to make sure base redevelopment occurs.”

In the meantime, the council has rejected a staff proposal to move the town’s only polling place from Brunswick Junior High School to Building 211, the future home of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department at Brunswick Landing.

After hearing an outpouring of opposition to the proposal on Monday, the council unanimously voted to keep the polls at the junior high school.

The council also ordered a study of the viability of opening new polling places to make elections more accessible to parts of town that aren’t near the junior high school.

The results of the study could completely or partially reverse the council’s 2010 decision to consolidate its seven polling places into one at the junior high school.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.