Topsham seeks input on downtown TIF

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TOPSHAM — The town is looking for public input on a proposed municipal downtown tax increment financing district.

A  June 25 workshop at the Municipal Building will focus on the possible creation of a TIF to be anchored by Main Street. The forum will run from 6-8 p.m., with light refreshments served.

The Board of Selectmen in February unanimously approved spending up to $20,000 in non-tax revenue to hire a consultant and legal counsel to consult with the town; three months later the panel hired Planning Decisions and Portland-based Bernstein Shur. If the TIF is found to be feasible, an application would be drafted for a special Town Meeting in September.

Planning Decisions will discuss and look for input on potential benefits of the TIF for Topsham, possible projects to be paid for by TIF revenues, and considerations in the establishment of TIF boundaries.

This TIF would be Topsham’s eighth, and the second 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, and 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, said early this year that 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.

The 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 explained at the time. “Additionally, the TIF plan would be designed to support economic development within the district.”

Potential 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.

The waterfront park, Lower Village parking, sidewalks and street lighting, and Lower Village and Androscoggin bicycle path trails, are among community development projects that could be funded.

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.