2018-09-07 / Front Page

Public hearing on TIF likely

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

On Sept. 5, the Scarborough Town Council met behind closed doors for the second time in seven days to discuss creation a tax increment financing (TIF) district. It was also the second time an announced public release of program details has been put off.

The TIF has been touted as vital to the creation of a traditional Main Street village on the Crossroads Holdings development planned for the 500-acre home to Scarborough Downs. The deal could include a credit enhancement agreement that would return a portion of property taxes realized from new construction on the Downs property to the Crossroads developers.

“I expect the council will agree to some form of TIF,” Town Manager Tom Hall said on Tuesday. “The question is whether it will include a credit enhancement and, if so, what kind of an offer we will make.”

If a deal is brokered, things will then move along. Hall said one scenario could include a council workshop on Sept. 19 and a public hearing on Oct. 3, followed by a final council vote on the TIF Oct. 17.

“We are trying to meet the request of the developers (on the timeline),” Hall said.

On Tuesday, Rocco Risbara said he and his Crossroads partners have seven company’s already on the line for areas of the project near Payne Road earmarked for light industry. That includes firm commitments from two tech companies not currently located in Scarborough he said. However, those agreements are to a large degree contingent on the developers being able to get shovels in the ground by certain deadlines.

Because those light industry areas are furthers on the property from existing utilities and roads, they are expensive to build, making returned revenue from the TIF agreement vi- tal to overall project, Risbara said.

“There seems to be a misconception out there that this money would somehow go to line our pockets. It will not,” he said. “It will all go right back into the ground to continue with the build out.”

“The great thing is that there is absolutely no risk to the town,” Hall said. “The town won’t have to build a thing itself, and what it does get in terms of new infrastructure will all be paid for using new tax revenue on site as it goes along.”

Phase I of that project includes a residential development with 48 units in four multi-family apartment buildings, along with 32 “garden style” condominium units, 16 duplex cottages, 30 single family house lots, and a 12-bed memory care facility.

The planning board has already given preliminary approvals, with a final green light expected by the end of October.

According to Risbara, a full build-out of that development, which will feature mandated affordable entry fees in 10 percent of the units and a price point promised to be “very, very attractive” in the rest, should take about 18 months.

The full master plan for the site envisions commercial and light industrial uses in the northern part of the property along Payne Road, near I-95, with a shopping center and offices in the western portion, along with more residential units and an assisted-living facility to the east.

The historic harness racing track on the central part of the property will remain up and running for at least two more years, but will likely give way to mixed uses including the village center long sought by many town officials.

The TIF District will include both the Crossroads site and the town’s current commercial district at Oak Hill, along with the Route 1 corridor linking the two. If the proposed TIF is approved by the state, the town will get to shelter all value from new construction within the entire district from state state assessments. For most towns, that’s a boon the school budget, and state subsidy dollars are based largely on property values.

Scarborough is already a high value, town, making it a minimum receiver.

The real value of the TIF comes in the fact that the town can funnel new tax dollars into a special fund, to be used for infrastructure and economic development projects within district boundaries. That could help to fund construction at no impact to the mil rate of a long-hoped for community center, a building Hall has cited as the “number one request” made of him during his tenure.

A number of local residents — mostly members of grassroots activist group Scarborough Maine Advocates for Reasonable Taxes (SMARTaxes) — are watching the TIF deal with a wary eye.

“We remain very concerned that there still isn’t even a high-level outline of the proposed TIF,” group spokesman Brian Kanode said on Tuesday. “In fact there isn’t even a summary of what the project itself includes -- how many new homes, how many new apartments, how much and what type of retail, etc.

“Without knowing the basics of the project, it is impossible to predict the impact on school enrollment, traffic and other quality of life issues.”

The Scarborough Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO) has claimed the Crossroads development will be the engine behind 3,100 jobs and $600,000 in new assessed property value by 2038, based on 1.7 million square feet in new commercial, office, industrial, retail and service space.

Risbara acknowledged on Tuesday that those estimates are a best guess.

“We’re not there yet,” he said. “We have a master plan that shows pur ideas, but if you’re looking for how many apartments, how many houses, how many square feet of commercial space, how many restaurants, by the time it’s all said and done, I can’t tell you that. I don’t have it.”

And that worries the SMARTaxes group.

“This is the largest development project and financial commitment the town has ever faced,” Kanode said. “It is a 30- year deal, so it will impact taxpayers for an entire generation. Any TIF agreement needs to be thoroughly understood by the residents.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

Return to top