WATERVILLE — Developers seeking tax increment financing districts for housing projects now may be considered for such tax breaks, since city councilors Tuesday voted to change a policy dealing with TIFs to include housing.

The unanimous vote followed a brief discussion about a request for a TIF from officials wanting to develop the former Seton Hospital on Chase Avenue into housing and offices.

City Manager Michael Roy said the city’s TIF Advisory Committee recommended housing be added to the city’s policy, which did not include a provision for considering housing-related TIF projects.

The council in 2014 rejected a bid to include housing in the TIF policy. At the time, a housing project for the former St. Francis Catholic Church property on Elm Street was being planned and developers wanted to be eligible for a TIF for a possible expansion of the project.

“The council at the time was not comfortable approving a housing TIF,” Roy said.

The change councilors approved Tuesday allows the city to consider approving housing TIFS, he said.

Before the city developed a TIF policy, it granted a TIF for the Hathaway Creative Center, which has residential and office space, and for Gilman Street School, which is all housing, according to Roy.

Council Chairman John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, asked if Seton developers definitely are planning to ask for a TIF.

“We don’t know yet for sure,” Roy replied.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, said that with Collaborative Consulting, a technology company, planning to bring 200 jobs to the city in the next few years and other development being planned, the need for high-end housing is strong. Seton is in Mayhew’s ward, and he said he canvassed the neighborhood and people said they want to see the project happen. The new housing will help generate taxes, he said.

“Re-purposing a vacant facility is the other benefit of this property,” Mayhew said.

In other TIF-related activity, councilors voted 7-0 to dissolve a TIF district for Mid-State Machine, which removed six machines valued at $1 million each from its space at the former Wyandotte mill on West River Road. The TIF was specifically for the machines, according to Roy, who said that since the machines are no longer there, the TIF is not needed.

The council also approved a zone change for College Quik Stop on West River Road to allow for a canopy with gasoline pumps to be installed there.

Mayor Nick Isgro read aloud a proclamation lauding police Detective-Sgt. Bill Bonney for receiving the 2015 Police Officer of the Year Award in January from Maine Association of Police.

Reps. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, and Thomas R.W. Longstaff, D-Waterville, and Sen. Scott Cyrway, R-Benton, presented Bonney a sentiment from the Legislature as well. Bonney received a standing ovation.

Waterville Public Library Director Sarah Sugden updated the council on the library, which she said the city has spent more than $4 million on — not including capital projects — over the last 10 years.

In addition to making thousands of print materials, electronic books, audio-visual items, downloadable audio books and other resources available to the public, the library provides special programs for children, arts and culture, economic development, career services and digital, history, heritage and science literacy resources.

A library, she said, reflects the values of a community and is an important place to support the learning of people of all ages.

The library partners with the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, Mid-Maine Regional Adult Education, economic development organizations such as the Central Maine Growth Council, the career center and other groups to give people what they need, she said.

“This collaboration effort that has been happening in the city of Waterville has been amazing,” Sugden said.

For instance, on Wednesday, the career center at the library will help Papa John’s pizza employees who lost their jobs last week with no notice to connect with career counselors, she said.

Mayhew applauded Sugden for her lengthy, animated presentation Tuesday.

“Your enthusiasm and passion is like a cup runneth over,” he said.

She received applause from the audience and city officials.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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