GARDINER — If it’s deemed in the best interest of the city, councilors will now allow waivers when issuing licenses to property owners who owe back taxes.

Bermac Properties, of Portland, a limited liability corporation, owes $13,000 to the city for property it owns at 300 Water St.

City Manager Scott Morelli said a high-end women’s clothing retail shop had moved into the downtown property, but city code prohibited staff from issuing a license and sign permit because of the unpaid taxes from the building’s owner.

“I think we’re one of the few places that would restrict issuing a license to anyone who owes back taxes,” Morelli said at a council meeting Tuesday. “In this instance, it’s not the (property owner) but the business owner (applying for a license).”

Sarah Leighton, owner of SaraSara, opened on Nov. 25 in a storefront in the Bermac building and also owns shops in Blue Hill and Castine.

Leighton said she is grateful to officials for the waiver.

“It’s very refreshing for city officials to understand the importance of businesses being in their community instead of solely concentrating on the rules,” Leighton said Wednesday. “If you don’t have businesses downtown, you’re not going to have a downtown or any taxes paid. So it’s very refreshing to have that support — to be afforded that trust was really wonderful.”

Morelli said officials have redoubled their focus on economic development downtown and at the city’s business park.

Nate Rudy, Gardiner’s director of economic and community development, has said the city’s restaurants, cafes and bakeries bring excitement, energy and diversity that helps draw visitors.

“We’ll collect our taxes eventually,” Morelli said. “It’s a great little business. She has two other shops in other parts of the state. Once she starts paying rent, they’ll have money to put toward back-taxes.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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