Scarborough officials negotiating tax break with Downs developers

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SCARBOROUGH — Developers and town officials are negotiating a tax increment financing agreement for the 500-acre Scarborough Downs property.

At a Town Council workshop Wednesday, developers said they will need a partnership with the town to complete their vision of community space and a “modern, active mixed-use” downtown area on about 40 acres at the core of the property.

With a TIF, the property taxes paid by the developers might be returned to them to pay for project amenities, like the community space, that benefit the town. The tax money, however, can also sometimes be returned to businesses to help their bottom line.

When it is completed, the project will include $600 million in taxable value, according to one of the project partners, Rocco Risbara III. The specific amount to be returned to the project through the TIF district has not been negotiated, Town manager Thomas Hall said.

The proposal includes having developers foot the entire bill for the infrastructure to initially develop the 300 acres marked for development, including roads that will serve the entire build-out.

The initial infrastructure investment from the developers is expected to be about $265 million, according to Cross Roads Holdings. The limited liability corporation was formed by Risbara and his brothers, William and Marc, of Risbara Bros. Construction Co., and Peter and Richard Michaud, formerly of Michaud Distributors. They purchased the property last January for $6.7 million.

Their project manager, Dan Bacon, said the downtown vision includes civic space, residential areas, retail and a town common.

Some councilors expressed concerns Wednesday about the impact of TIF district and requested an outside consultant be involved in the process.

Hall said the TIF must benefit the town, cover initial costs, and would be performance-based as far as the amount of money returned from revenue generated from the project.

Only two members of the public, husband and wife Don and Susan Hamill of Pine Point, addressed the council.

Don Hamill said the public must be a partner in the process because the town has “a disturbing pattern” of making major decisions without doing its due diligence. He said outside assistance is essential is understanding the risk and opportunities of a TIF district.

Council Chairman William Donovan said he and Hall have been meeting with the Downs developers for several months.

In an email to The Forecaster earlier in the week, Donovan said the town does not intend to advance funds or borrow money for the “development of any potential community improvement.”

Another public hearing and workshop is slated for Sept. 5.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

Developers are seeking tax increment financing to help create a downtown area on 40 acres at Scarborough Downs.

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