Richardson says delay in TIF talk for public input
In a surprise move Monday, Town Councilors voted not to approve or reject tax increment financing districts for Brunswick Landing and Brunswick Executive Airport, putting the decision off for two weeks.
Acting on a motion by at-large Councilor John Richardson Jr., the board unanimously voted to table each of the two proposals until the council’s March 18 meeting.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide some economic development initiatives to redevelop the base,” Richardson said.
“My sense was that it’s important for us to hear from the public,” he said later. “Take time. This is a big decision, there’s a lot of taxpayer money at stake here, and we want to hear from people.”
But the town has a deadline to meet: In order to preserve the former base’s zerodevelopment tax valuation for fiscal year 2012, Brunswick must designate the TIF districts before April 1.
By superimposing the TIF boundaries, the town can “capture” taxable value of development within them and use it to pay for municipal infrastructure projects or fund its school budgets without jeopardizing the town’s own tax rates or eligibility to receive state educational funding.
Steve Levesque, executive director of Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, said he was surprised by the council’s decision Monday.
“But it’s their decision to make,” Levesque said. “Obviously, they want to have more of a discussion before they vote. We’ll go along with whatever we have to.”
District 2 Councilor Ben Tucker said that, during the interim, he and Richardson — the council’s two TIF liasions — “immediately” would arrange a meeting with Levesque and MRRA trustees to “initiate formal discussions” regarding the districts.
A public hearing was held for each proposal. However, only one person took to the podium, and he did so to savage the entire base closure and redevelopment process.
Harpswell Road resident and frequent MRRA critic Fred Blanchard alleged that thetown of Brunswick, Legislature and then-Gov. John Baldacci all violated state law by signing the agreement that created MRRA and appointed it to redevelop the base.
Town Manager Gary Brown, who agreed to refute Blanchard’s allegations during March 18 meeting, said he’s often heard the argument — and made the town’s defense — before.
“He’s just wrong,” Brown said of Blanchard. “His suggestions that the Legislature would violate the (state’s) constitution is laughable. The short answer is that he’s just wrong.”
Also Monday, councilors set a public hearing, alsor March 18, to discuss impending capital improvements.
Among the items to be discussed will be retiring the outstanding balance for an ambulance purchased in 2011 and approving an estimated $187,000 to buy a second; and planning for a joint College Street reconstruction project with Bowdoin College and the municipal water and sewer districts.