Portland City Council to reconsider tax break for West End housing project

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PORTLAND — City Council approval of a West End tax increment financing district faces a new vote Sept. 21 after councilors review an independent analysis of the zone.

The TIF was approved Aug. 3 for a 37-unit Avesta Housing project planned for 17 Carleton St., and then reconsidered Sept. 9 by councilors after a request from former City Councilor and Mayor Anne Pringle.

After agreeing to reopen the question on Sept. 9, councilors postponed the public hearing and vote to Sept. 21.

“No evaluation of the financial need for the TIF was part of the public record,” Pringle noted in a Sept. 8 email to councilors.

Independent reviews of financial need for TIFs, where future property tax revenues can be returned to a developer, are required before the City Council votes to create a district.

Avesta wants to build the housing on a parking lot between Pine and West streets. The nonprofit agency has sought a 22-year, $700,000 TIF that would return 65 percent of the increases in property valuation to support operating costs.

The plan for 12 efficiency units, 23 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom residences is also being reviewed by the Planning and Historic Preservation boards.

The third-party analysis was conducted by consultants Global Deal Funding.

“The project clearly creates affordable housing in an area of great need,” Global Deal concluded. “The project development sits among residential use areas and will provide a benefit to the neighborhood financially and aesthetically.”

Keepin’ the blues

Also on Sept. 9, councilors eliminated an exchange deadline for city trash bags purchased before the bag fees increased in July.

Residents still using older blue garbage bags will not have to switch to new purple bags by Oct. 2.

Councilor Jon Hinck asked for the “blue bag amnesty,” noting there has been no evidence of hoarding of the less-expensive blue bags, and no real detriment to city revenues by allowing residents to continue using them until their supplies run out.

Department of Public Works Director Mike Bobinsky said the city has collected 735 cases of the old 30-gallon bags and about 500 of the old 15-gallon bags from retailers.

Those bags may yet return to circulation at the higher price of $1.35 for 15 gallons and $2.70 for 30 gallons, City Manager Jon Jennings said.

“It certainly is not our intention to throw anything anyway,” he said.

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

Portland City Councilors on Sept. 21 will vote again on a TIF district for an Avesta Housing project planned on part of this parking lot at 17 Carleton St.

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.