There are “carrots and hoops” when it comes to getting grants and tax credits to improve downtown buildings, said the consultants working on Waldoboro’s Downtown Master Plan at a community forum May 26 at the Meenahga Grange.

The “carrots” are tens of thousands of dollars for the owners of buildings to make façade improvements, rehabilitate apartments and make other upgrades. The “hoops” — for funding from the National Historic District program, for example — are the standards of the Secretary of the Interior.

Misty Gorski, planning and development director, is working on the Downtown Master Plan with consultants Dennis Lachman, Rodney Lynch and Regina Leonard. Gorski started the forum by noting the importance of the downtown.

“It has always been one of the cultural and historic hubs of the town and has also suffered from many challenges over the years,” Gorski said. “The importance of the downtown can be seen in that it can be an incubator for a lot of new businesses, especially local businesses. And local businesses are extremely important because those support local families.”

Gorski said the main goal of the Downtown Master Plan is to find “realistic strategies to overcome the challenges that face the downtown.”

“We all know what those challenges are … well, the purpose of this plan is to identify the resources and the tools that are out there to overcome these challenges and start doing some of the improvements we’ve always wanted to see,” Gorski said.

Waldoboro is paying for the $22,000 Downtown Master Plan through the Comprehensive Plan Reserve Fund, a grant from the Community Development Block Grant program, and some Gateway 1 funds.

The project is not without its critics, who have said at selectmen’s meetings that the town should not favor one area of Waldoboro at the expense of another — such as the Route 1 corridor. Residents have also cautioned the town about the use of grant money.

Waldoboro does not currently have its downtown designated as a National Historic District. “Maine Historic Preservation Commission feels there is a distinct possibility here, but it’s limited to commercial buildings,” Lachman said.

Property owners in the historic district would not be bound by any restrictions, unless they want money from the program.

“If you have a building and you make a private investment of $100,000 and if you have a historic district, you have a choice,” said Lachman. “You cannot use rehab tax credits and then your investment will be $100,000. You can make your choice and use rehab tax credits — you have to go through an approval process — there’s carrots, there’s hoops. …These are the credits you can use: 25 percent is the Maine credit, 20 percent is the federal. Your final investment can be as low as $55,000.”

Lachman said if there is no historic district, there is no choice. The project will cost $100,000.

There are 10 standards in Department of Interior regulations for the National Historic District. For the full list, go to nps.gov/hps/tps/tax/rhb/stand.htm. A few of the standards are:

• “The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved.”

• “Distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property shall be preserved.”

• “Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced.”

• “New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property.”

Lachman and Lynch outlined long-term and short-term grants for building improvements, streetscape improvements such as “street tree plantings,” new village sidewalks, storm drainage, as well as a trail construction project. They cited downtown Thomaston as an area that has used grants and tax credits for revitalization.

Dave Kristiansen owns property in Thomaston and has worked with the consultants on revitalization projects. He said in the last 25 years, he has heard many times “We need to do downtown, we need to fix downtown.”

“This is an opportunity for us to maybe accomplish something good,” Kristiansen said. “My experience working with these guys has been fantastic. I don’t know anything about this paperwork. God bless them. It was very easy. As far as getting things approved from the historic people, it wasn’t bad. I had a little thing with the windows, we went back and forth and it got worked out. And the truth of it is, it was probably more help to me because I wanted to maintain the historic value of the building.”

The consultants have been gathering data since April and making inventories of the infrastructure and resources. Another community forum will be held June 23. That program will focus more on projects (façade improvements, fixing the curbs, installing signs) whereas the May 26 forum focused on the resources available to property owners.