Topsham weighs revitalization plan, 2 TIFs
TOPSHAM — Two proposed tax increment financing proposals, and a neighborhood revitalization plan, could be put to votes at a Sept. 25 special Town Meeting.
After a public hearing Thursday, the Board of Selectmen was expected to decide which items to forward to the special meeting. A public hearing on the Town Meeting warrant could be held Sept. 5.
While there was discussion Aug. 15 about delaying the process, and allowing more time for selectmen to review documents related to the proposals, the board still opted for the public hearing schedule in advance of the Town Meeting.
"We presented them as fast as we could to get the work done, and get hearings and public meetings done before the Sept. 25 (meeting)," Town Manager Cornell Knight said last week.
One of the two TIFs, regarding affordable senior housing, would be created for River Landing, a three-floor apartment building proposed for the Elm Street site of Amenity Manor, a former nursing home that is now vacant and would be demolished. The facility will contain 36 units, and the TIF would help keep the units affordable.
The Planning Board granted River Landing final subdivision and site plan approvals on Tuesday.
The other TIF, to be anchored by Main Street, would be the second in Topsham designated as municipal (the first is at Topsham Fair Mall). The district would stretch along Main Street from the Frank J. Woods Bridge to near the Interstate 295 overpass, with some parcels northeast of Route 196. It would include the Lower Village, Middle Village, Village Center, Limited Industrial, Business Park 2 and Residential 4 zones.
John Shattuck, Topsham's economic and community development director, has said the municipal TIF discussion was triggered by the potential of a Lower Village waterfront park and connected traffic improvements; conveyance of the Topsham Commerce Park (formerly the U.S. Navy Annex) to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, and continuing budget challenges.
Another proposed article for the special Town Meeting calls for adoption of a revitalization plan for the Elm and Green streets neighborhood.
Recent studies have looked into the potential for redevelopment of Topsham's lower village, including waterfront access, traffic and the feasibility of a riverside trail. As well as continuing work on potential downtown and affordable housing tax increment financing districts, they have shown a gap in community planning, according to a town press release.
Despite being a significant and historic component of Topsham's downtown, according to the statement, the area is not included in the town's Main Street plan, nor is there a specific plan for its redevelopment.
As a result, town staff and the Lower Village Development Committee have been looking to craft a preliminary plan for that neighborhood. Creation of the plan would also be a step toward developing Topsham's next Comprehensive Plan, due to start in the coming years.