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Rockland to vote on cutting Lincoln Street Center assessment

By Stephen Betts | Mar 13, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Lincoln Street Center in Rockland.

Rockland — Rockland and the owner of the Lincoln Street Center reached an agreement to cut the company's property tax assessment by 25%.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said he expects to present the proposed agreement to the City Council in April.

The agreement would cut Orchid LLC's assessment for the Lincoln Street Center from $1,001,500 to $750,000. This would cut the corporation's annual tax payment by about $6,000.

Orchid filed an abatement request to the Maine State Board of Property Tax Review to reduce the assessment to $330,000, saying the city had the property overvalued. The Board directed the city and Orchid to enter into mediation.

The city was represented in mediation by attorney Kevin Decker of Portland.

Orchid bought the property in 2012, paying $125,000 to Camden National Bank after the bank took ownership of the property from the since defunct nonprofit organization Lincoln Street Center for Arts. The city sold the property to that former group after the school moved out in 1996 because of air quality concerns.

Orchid leases out space largely to artists.

Orchid LLC consists of Oded Ashe of Las Vegas; local resident Mario Abaldo; and Erez Ram of Agoura, Calif.

The building was constructed in 1866 but received major additions and renovations in the early 1900s. The building has 35,000 square feet of space and sits on 1.65 acres. It originally housed Rockland High School, then Rockland District Junior High School before it closed in November 1996.

 

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Comments (7)
Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Mar 14, 2020 19:01

Steve:


If my math is correct, the tax bill for the Lincoln Street Center is about $24,000 a year, not $750,000. Personally, I would rather see it remain on the tax rolls. Recall that when PenBay bought the MBNA ops center on Old County Road the City lost the revenue from that million dollar property.


I can see the front doors of the Lincoln Street Center from my driveway. I would rather see it occupied and contributing to our town.



Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Mar 14, 2020 11:18

The article does not mention what the basis is for the reassessment. If the property is demonstrably overvalued for tax purposes, the revaluation is understandable. Otherwise, I would like to know exactly how viable the corporation is and how a $6,000 per year reduction in overhead, on the shoulders of individual taxpayers, would affect that, especially given the magnitude of needed repairs mentioned by another writer here.

 



Posted by: Patrick Michael Florance | Mar 14, 2020 10:20

In response to Mr. Mazzeo...

As an artist renter at Lincoln Street Center I would like to add my voice to this conversation. We are most fortunate to have large enough and affordable enough spaces to do our work and add to the economy of Rockland. Despite what you might think, MANY of us have worked a "real" job for many. many years while at the same time continuing to work at our art profession. My working days used to consist of a 18-20 hour work day - leaving minimal time for sleep. I did that for 27 years. When it became necessary to relocate my studio space, there was NOTHING to be had in Rockland that had the space or affordability for my work. I could not be more pleased to be here. We have a wonderful camaraderie of fellow artists who work diligently and seriously at their art. That work, in turn, allows us to purchase supplies, framing services, gallery representation, meals, etc, from other small businesses in town. Our work also brings many visitors and consumers to the city of Rockland. Recent "Open Studio" evenings have been filled with people visiting the spaces and the city.

My request is to please understand that we are not looking to increase your taxes but rather to find a more equitable way to distribute the cost of city services. Perhaps all Non-profits should be paying a percentage of the taxes rather than being able to opt out completely...that way everyone is treated fairly.

Kathleen Florance



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Mar 14, 2020 09:40

I was never quite sure why the current owners havn't formed some sort of an association with the Farnsworth since the facility is "an Arts Community" and make this into a "NON-PROFIT.  Then they would pay NO taxes and could take that $750,000 they would pay the city and instead make the necessary improvements to the building.  The Lincoln street center is currently underway with a project to convert sections of the building into small apartments for the Arts community.  If the City wants to actually do something positive for the community, they should encourage the owners to convert the entire building into small affordable "studio" apartments for local starving artists.  I would like to see a collaboration between the City and the Lincoln street center to join the McClain school and create an intown arts center.  We are after all penned as Maine's leading Arts community.  This town has always done a better job driving people out than welcoming them in.  Improve in-town first before we put thousands into the bog.



Posted by: Amy Files | Mar 13, 2020 14:09

Francis Mazzeo -- the Lincoln Street Center is home to non-profits like Window Dressers and Coastal Recovery Coalition in addition to a full building of artists and creatives. Artists are small business owners. My business not only helps to support me but my design services serve other small business owners in town by helping them with their businesses. The same can be said for multiple other small business owners in the Lincoln Street Center Building. We run businesses, pay taxes, also sometimes pay other local businesses (tax consultants, bookkeepers, framers, etc) and even hire employees in addition to then spending our money locally on the local economy through upkeep of our homes, taxes, rent, services, etc. We are all paying rent for our studio spaces -- the rent is still affordable enough that working artists can still access it -- but it's also in line with market rates in Rockland. The problem isn't that this building is helping to ensure local artists have access to affordable space to create artwork -- the problem is that this is an old, historic building that really needs a new roof and new heating system in addition to a whole slew of other updates and maintenance needs -- all needed repairs combined could run upwards of 1/2 million dollars. And then what happens when you make those improvements? The value of the building is placed even higher and the taxes raised even more. The rent, while fair, struggles to cover our annual heating and maintenance costs of the building. As I see it, this building is serving a real need and best use for its current condition -- like it or not, the artist industry is part of the economic diversity that helps Rockland to thrive and weather the ups/downs of the economy. And I would hope that you would agree that it's important to support all local business owners -- including our artists. The reality is that the cost to fix this building up to residential standards or even normal office needs is not practical for the amount of investment required -- so if you don't like artists using it, then your alternative would be to leave it empty and abandoned... doesn't it make more sense to have it being used and allowing the City to receive some taxes from it vs. having it sit empty and receive no taxes?



Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Mar 13, 2020 13:49

Per usual, our city government does poorly when they act as untrained realtors. Maybe home owners should appeal their increased taxes, en mass, when their tax bills arrive in June and come due in September.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 13, 2020 12:59

Somebody will have to make that $6000 dollar reduction up. Most likely it will be the home owner. I don't know how much longer I can pay taxes to keep these artist in town. Maybe they need to get a real job.



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