Expanded Bayside TIF moves toward Portland City Council vote

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PORTLAND — Holiday and winter party plans gained City Council approval Monday in a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes.

While formally approving the setup for the annual Christmas tree lighting in Monument Square, an ensuing weekend holiday festival on the peninsula, and the first Winterfest in late January 2015, councilors also took steps to create an expanded Bayside tax increment finance zone and to approve a new director for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Scheduled for a Nov. 17 second reading and vote is the expansion of the current Bayside tax increment finance district, which was established on 11 acres in 2003 and expanded in 2005 to 62 acres.

The new expansion would add 67 acres bordered by Forest and Cumberland avenues and Franklin and Kennebec streets. The expanded zone would conform to boundaries defined in the Bayside Vision Plan, while adding a projected $141 million in property valuations through fiscal year 2032, according to plan documents. The Bayside Vision plan was incorporated into the city Comprehensive Plan in 1999.

Tax increment finance zones are designed to set aside taxable increases in property valuations to allow developers or municipalities to make property or infrastructure improvements at a site or larger area.

Funds in the current Bayside zone have helped repay loans from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department for land purchases and the utility infrastructure around Whole Foods Market on Somerset Street.

DHHS director

A second reading and vote on the appointment of Dawn Stiles as DHHS director will also take place Nov. 17.

Stiles, a former president of Spurwink Services, has been executive director of the Anna Maria Island Community Center in Florida since April 2013. She will be paid $105,000 annually to oversee the department that includes city health care services, the Barron Center assisted living facility off Brighton Avenue, and social services programs.

Former Director Doug Gardner left the DHHS post June 30 for a private-sector job in Lewiston.

Holiday events

The annual tree lighting ceremony in Monument Square will be at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 28, and require closing Congress Street from Elm to Preble streets from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. City buses will be allowed through the area until 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m.

The tree-lighting event also begins the “Light Up Your Holidays” festival sponsored by the Portland Downtown District. It will include horse-drawn wagon rides through downtown and the Old Port, boarding at Monument Square, Fridays and weekends from Nov. 28-Dec. 21.

The annual “Merry Madness” shopping event scheduled for Dec. 11 will also feature a tent in Congress Square near the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, where wine will be served to adults 21 and over.

The inaugural Winterfest will run from Jan. 22-25 at areas throughout the peninsula. PDD Executive Director Steve Hewins said plans are still being finalized, but the festival will possibly be capped by a ski- or snowboard-jumping competition using a ramp constructed on Spring Street.

Monday’s council meeting was also recessed for about 20 minutes while the annual Portland Development Corp. meeting was held.

The major decision at the PDC meeting lifts a $250,000 cap on capitalizing a grant program for local businesses. The cap was created in 2011, and PDC Executive Director Barry Sheff said it will soon be reached.

Councilors unanimously approved lifting the cap, but asked city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell to report back after an increased cap is determined.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.