Topsham eyes Main Street tax-incentive plan

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TOPSHAM — Establishment of a municipal downtown tax increment financing district could go to voters this fall.

The Board of Selectmen on Feb. 7 unanimously approved spending up to $20,000 to hire a consultant and possibly legal counsel to aid the town in forming the proposed TIF. Requests for proposals should be going out in the next two weeks, according to John Shattuck, Topsham’s economic and community development director.

Shattuck stated in a Jan. 30 memo to Town Manager Cornell Knight and the Board of Selectmen that he believed resources exist in the current budget to fund the positions.

This would be Topsham’s eighth TIF, and the second designated as municipal (the first is at Topsham Fair Mall). It would stretch along Main Street from the Frank J. Woods Bridge to near the Interstate 295 overpass, with some parcels northeast of Route 196, and include the Lower Village, Middle Village, Village Center, Limited Industrial, Business Park 2 and Residential 4 zones.

Shattuck said the 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 Navy Annex) to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, and continuing budget challenges.

This municipal TIF district “would be structured to enable the town to both capture new incremental value in areas that are likely to be developed in the future, and to fund infrastructure improvements and community development projects that are either within the district or would support projects within the district,” Shattuck said. “Additionally, the TIF plan would be designed to support economic development within the district.”

Possible infrastructure improvements that could be funded from TIF revenues include the paving of Main and Green streets and parts of Elm Street, along with sewer, road and water infrastructure needed for the commerce park and other business development in the district, according to Shattuck.

Community development projects that could be funded include the waterfront park, Lower Village parking, sidewalks and street lighting, and Lower Village and Androscoggin bicycle path trails.

Shattuck said he anticipates a six-month process that would include at least two large public meetings, smaller-scale neighborhood meetings, and a public hearing. A vote on forming the district would take place at a special Town Meeting in October, or on Election Day in November.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.