Topsham to vote on TIFs, redevelopment at special Town Meeting

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TOPSHAM — Residents will vote on a neighborhood revitalization plan and two proposed tax increment financing proposals at a Sept. 25 special Town Meeting.

A public hearing on the Town Meeting warrant will be held Thursday, Sept. 5, as part of the next Board of Selectmen meeting.

While the two TIFs earned unanimous support from the board, the revitalization plan for the Elm and Green streets neighborhood was approved in a split, 3-2 vote. Selectman Ronald Riendeau, who voted with Selectman Jim Trusiani against sending the plan to Town Meeting, last week said he is not necessarily opposed to the plan, but that he is concerned the process has been rushed.

“We didn’t know if the neighbors had enough information on it, and we felt as though the selectmen didn’t have enough information on it,” he said.

Riendeau also expressed concern about a proposed roundabout around Green and Main streets.

“I think … it’s going to take a lot of property; I know we’ve got some business people in the lower village that are concerned,” he said. “… I don’t see any need for a roundabout.”

Recent studies have examined the potential for redevelopment of Topsham’s lower village, including waterfront access, traffic and the feasibility of a riverside trail. But while being a significant and historic component of Topsham’s downtown, a town press release noted earlier this year, the area is not included in the town’s Main Street plan, nor is there a specific plan for its redevelopment.

One of the two proposed TIFs, regarding affordable senior housing, would be created for River Landing, a three-story apartment building proposed for the former Amenity Manor nursing home property on Elm Street, which is 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 last week.

The other TIF would be anchored by Main Street and 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 prompted 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.

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.