The Star-Herald

New tax status spurs Presque Isle economic development

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — More than 920 Presque Isle downtown acres were granted tax increment financing district status by the state this week, according to the city’s Director of Economic & Community Development Galen Weibley. 

 

“The city applied for a downtown TIF district by first creating a downtown redevelopment plan,” Weibley said, adding that it is the city’s 30-year revitalization vision.

This revitalization plan was completed by a diverse group of community leaders and residents and the city council approved it last October. But because of COVID-19 the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development TIF approval was just announced.

Weibley said this new 30-year designation is one of the largest in The County — Caribou has a 635-acre TIF district — and it is very important to the city’s economic development. 

Weibley explained the city has had other TIF districts like the Lowe’s designation, but this is new for the downtown. 

The way it works is that property taxes on new development and improvements in the district will be sheltered in a TIF fund that can be used for city improvements.

For example, a resident in the TIF zone pays $2,500 in taxes on a property valued at $100,000 and it gets distributed as always to the city, school district and county. But, if the resident decides to build a service garage, it will get placed into a sheltered TIF fund. As the fund grows, the city council can decide to use some of the funds for a designated project within the TIF area. 

“City staff or residents can propose potential projects,” Weibley said. “But the City Council has the sole discretion on how funds are used.”

As part of the Presque Isle redevelopment plan, TIF revenues could be used for several projects, including facade improvements, event programming, sidewalk improvements, all-purpose trails, demolition of blighted properties, developing an arts and cultural district and downtown signage to name a few. 

Additionally, as part of the downtown revitalization plan,  the city may also entertain Credit Enhancement Agreements, which are tax refund payments for improved property values. But the city is considering revising the current credit enhancement policy because it is restrictive, Weibley said.

“It currently has a very high bar,” he said. “We want to encourage redevelopment.” 

The new downtown TIF includes Carmichael Street, Fort Fairfield Road, Industrial Street, Main Street, Maysville Road, Mechanic Street, North Street, Parson Street, Riverside Drive and State Street.   

As part of this downtown initiative, the Downtown Façade Program, although a year or two down the road, will offer no payment, no interest loans from $5,000 to $100,000 to improve downtown facades. If after 20 years, the property is not sold, the loan is forgiven. 

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