UNITY — Voters at a special town meeting Saturday approved changes to the town’s downtown tax increment financing district and adopted an ordinance to create a town economic development committee.

Residents voted to extend the TIF to its maximum 30-year lifespan and authorized new uses for TIF money, including a revolving loan fund and materials to market the town as an attractive destination for businesses, Selectwoman Emily Newell said Tuesday. She said there about 35 people were at the town meeting.

The town’s TIF district, which covers a number of properties in the central business district, was approved in 1996 and has been amended twice, in 2000 and 2007. The district captures increased real estate taxes generated by new development and the money is directed to a special fund to pay for approved municipal economic development projects.

A town policy change approved by voters now also allows the town to offer a financial tool called a credit enhancement agreement that can rebate up to 75 percent of the increased tax value captured in the district to a business. Selectmen will have the ability to make agreements with businesses for reimbursements up to 50 percent, but anything more needs to be approved by voters, according to the updated guidelines.

The TIF will expire in 2026, and the town expects to generate about $61,900 a year until its expiration, for a total of $619,000. The town’s TIF account has roughly $124,000, according to Newell.

According to its updated development plan, the town wants to use the money for infrastructure and public safety improvements, costs for financing, job training, recreational trail building and economic development. A revolving economic development fund to provide loans, grants or funding to support commercial activities is proposed to receive $100,000 from the TIF account.

Since it was established, the TIF has generated about $1.065 million, according to town figures. Some of that funding went to pay for building the town’s fire station and buy firefighting equipment, as well as improve sidewalks and parking in town, rehabilitate dilapidated buildings and organize and market the town, according to the TIF development program.

The district’s area has increased over the past 20 years, from about 5 acres in 1997 to almost 16 in 2007. The newest changes will add almost 140 acres to the district, increasing its size to about 183 acres altogether.

Newell said voters approved changes to remove tax-exempt properties owned by the community center, New Horizons Health Care health center, Unity Foundation and the Town Office and add the Unity Food Hub and several Amish businesses to the TIF, she said.

Voters also approved an ordinance creating an economic development committee to manage the TIF and spur business growth in the town. The new committee will have seven to 17 members from across the community, including financial professionals, students, community leaders, business people, farmers and nonprofit representatives. It will take over from the existing TIF Advisory Committee, which will be disbanded, Newell said.

The TIF changes were passed unanimously, and voters appear to have a positive feeling about what it has been used for in town so far, Newell added.

“It has brought development into our downtown and made it a more pleasant and wonderful place to live,” she said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


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