City considers industrial park for future expansionLooks at downtown, harbor trail improvements
Rockland — City Councilors held public hearings Sept. 23 on proposed changes to two city Tax Increment Financing Districts, one in the industrial park and one for the downtown at Tillson Avenue.
As part of proposed amendments to the Fisher Engineering Plant Tax Increment Financing District, the city is considering adding eight acres of city-owned land off Merrill Drive to the district in the industrial park.
The land in question is near wetlands and was thought to be impossible to develop at one time, but City Manager James Smith said this parcel is the most promising site for potential future development to expand the industrial park.
Smith and Community Development Director John Holden informed the council further analysis of the land is needed to see if it could be developed. Funds from the TIF district could be used to pay for those studies, Smith said.
Projects that may be included in the Tillson Avenue or downtown district may include developing parking facilities, improvements in lighting on Winter Street and Tillson and improvements to city streets ranging from plantings and benches to trash cans.
Both TIF amendments include possible future improvements to the City's Harbor Trail.
Maggie Trout of Rockland spoke during the public hearing for the Fisher Engineering TIF amendments and urged the council not to vote on issues right after the public hearing, but to wait and consider the data.
The council have sent the proposed amendments back to city staff for revision. The council postponed voting on the TIF amendments until Oct. 16 for the Fisher TIF and Nov. 13 for the Tillson TIF.
Smith said Sept. 24 the amendments provide the city with more options for projects in the districts. State laws have changed, allowing a wider range of projects to be funded with TIF money.
The council and city staff will now decide which potential projects are high priority and which are low, Smith said.
This will not change the terms of the tax break Fisher Engineering received from the city on its 2009 expansion.
TIF districts allow the city to shelter itself from increases in valuation and tax assessments resulting from improvements and development. Without these districts, improvements made to buildings in the district would increase the city's valuation, reducing its share of Essential Programs and Services Aid to education and state Revenue Sharing funds. It would also mean a rise in county tax assessments.
As part of the agreements with businesses through these districts, a portion of property taxes collected go back to the business as an incentive and other portions go into a TIF fund that can be used for improvement projects.
Courier-Gazette Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 594-4401 ext. 122.
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Daniel Dunkle is editor of The Courier-Gazette and news director for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife, Christine, who also works for Courier Publications, and two children.
Dunkle has previously served as editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. He has worked as a reporter and photographer in the Midcoast for 15 years.
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