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YARMOUTH — The Town Council on Aug. 20 approved three tax increment finance districts that would generate $24 million in revenue over a 30-year period.
Councilors held three public hearings on the creation of the TIF districts: one downtown, one on the northern half of Route 1, and one on the southern half of Route 1. The town now needs to receive final approval from the state before the TIF districts can officially be established.
A TIF district uses future gains in taxes to pay for economic development in an area. When a district is established, the property taxes paid in that area become fixed; the current amount is still paid to the town each year, and any increases are put into the TIF fund.
Each separate vote on the districts passed 6-0, with Councilor James MacLeod absent.
“I think the time is right,” Councilor Tamson Bickford-Hamrock said. “It’s a win-win for all as far as I’m concerned.”
Councilor Pat Thompson said creating TIF districts will move Yarmouth forward.
“I think it is indicative of a progressive town and, if anything, Yarmouth needs to remain or become, depending on how you look at it, a progressive town,” Thompson said.
Councilor Andy Kittredge agreed, saying the TIF districts will be a positive change.
“It’s change, yes, but I think it’s a step we need to take,” he said.
Chairman Randy Bates said if the council didn’t create the districts, the decision would hold the town back.
“Where we have been heading is going to be, if we don’t do anything … unsustainable,” he said.
If approved by the state, the projected total TIF revenue over 30 years for downtown would be $3.7 million. For Route 1 north it would be $5.6 million, and for Route 1 south it would be $14.9 million.
Shana Cook Mueller, a Bernstein Shur attorney who specializes in economic development and TIFs, said the town’s next step is to submit the final application package to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. The commissioner, George Gervais, will then review it to make sure the town has complied with state law.
Town Manager Nat Tupper, who supports the creation of TIF districts, said he thinks the town will get state approval.
The public hearing also showed support for the districts, with all but one of the nine residents who spoke in favor of establishment.
“The proposed TIF districts represent next-step actions to achieving the goals of the Comprehensive Plan,” Lynne Seeley, who spoke on behalf of the town’s Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee, said. “The TIFs will help encourage and fund the desired visions and actions for these important areas that contribute to Yarmouth’s special character and our economic vitality.”
Ed Ashley of the CPIC expressed his support, too, and commended councilors and the town for trying to move Yarmouth forward and attract new businesses.
“This tells you that these folks aren’t just talking the talk, they’re walking the walk,” he said. “They put their money where their mouth is. There’s a commitment on the part of the town.”
Anita Demetropoulos, owner of Island Treasure Toys on Route 1, said she’s glad Yarmouth is thinking of ways to bring new businesses into town.
“I believe that the (TIF districts) would benefit the town greatly, and as a business owner the idea of other businesses feeling welcome to come, to know that Yarmouth is supporting them as businesses, supporting the economic development of this town, those are all very positive things,” she said.
Resident Loretta McKinnon expressed hesitation, specifically regarding the town’s desire to bring more businesses to Route 1.
“I would like us to wait and see the benefits that are going to accrue to Falmouth for the money they’ve put into their Route 1,” she said.