2015-06-26 / Front Page

Lower Village TIF change proposed

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — The third try may be the charm for those hoping Kennebunk selectmen will vote to expand the Lower Village Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.

After postponing a vote twice in consecutive meetings, due to the absence of some board members, the board was scheduled to vote on the proposal at its June 23 session. That meeting took place after the deadline for this week’s Post, but based on previous board comments, the TIF vote was expected to he one of the more important topics on a lengthy agenda.

“This is a fairly significant discussion and we should hold this with the entire board present,” said Selectman Richard Morin, acting as chairman of the June 9 board meeting, when moving to postpone the vote.

“I wholeheartedly agree,” Selectman Albert Searles said.

The board first heard a proposal on updating the Lower Village TIF district at its May 12 meeting. However, when it came time to make a decision at its May 26 session, the board tabled action due to the absence of Selectmen John Kotsonis and Christopher Cluff. Then, on June 9, with Cluff again absent, and Chairman Kevin Donovan also not present, the remaining five members voted unanimously to table a decision until June 23.

That meeting was the last for Selectman David Spofford, who chose not to run for re-election, and for Selectmen Searles and Kotsonis, both defeated at the polls June 9, even as the second vote to table the TIF talk was taking place.

According to Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, once selectmen do weigh in, any amendments made to the Lower Village TIF District would have to be approved first by voters, then by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Created in 2010, the Lower Village TIF District is designed to capture and set aside revenue from new development within the district and earmark those funds to specific projects within the TIF area.

At the time, there were 17 separate needs totaling $5.8 million in work. Items named to the wish list included burying all utility lines in the area, repairing the Kennebunk River causeway fence, constructing a boardwalk along the causeway “with attractive, sturdy railing, benches, flowers, etc.,” and building a million-dollar visitor center.

Following a series of four “visioning sessions” held this spring to consider the future of the neighborhood, the Lower Village Committee voted at its May 9 meeting to endorse adding three properties to the TIF district.

“Funds in the TIF at this time are inadequate to move forward on those projects, making the connectivity of the upper and lower ends of the village difficult to achieve,” Economic Development Director Mat Eddy wrote in a May 6 memo to the board of selectmen. “This has resulted in sagging business activity on the west side of Route 35.

“The Lower Village Committee saw an opportunity to capture additional new funds that may be used in future improvements,” Eddy wrote.

The three properties nominated for annexation into the TIF district include:

 The former Bartley’s Dockside Restaurant at 4 Western Ave. (Map 88, Lot 10), assessed at $373,100. The Bartley family sold the property Jan 15 to a partnership of Boothbay Harbor restaurateur Sante Calandri and New York City chef German Lucarelli, for a reported $1.5 million. Calandri told Mainebiz in February he planned to invest $600,000 into the building, making it a sister site to his Ports of Italy restaurant in Boothbay Harbor. The new restaurant opened its doors in late May.

 The Gallery Building at 43 Western Ave. (Map 89, Lot 89), assessed along with its .65-acre lot at $234,400. Eddy said the property is on the market, while Tibbetts said it will likely become a residential redevelopment. However, because it sits in a limited business commercial zone, it could become part of the TIF district, he said.

 The Tudisco lot, a half-acre property accessible by a narrow, “spaghetti-strip” appendage off of Western Avenue. Located at Map 89, Lot 88, it is assessed by the town at $94,500. Eddy said it has been eyed for use as a parking lot for employees of Lower Village businesses, a need identified in the TIF plan and pegged in 2010 as an $800,000 project.

If selectmen approve any of the proposed additions to the Lower Village TIF District, those changes would go to voters on the general election ballot in November, Tibbetts said.

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