WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously OK’d a tax increment financing district and related development plan for Trafton Road Development.

The council must take another vote on the proposal to finalize the TIF and will consider taking that vote at its next meeting, on Oct. 17, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

Roy said a TIF, which would encompass three lots totaling 144 acres, would enable both job growth and expansion of the city’s tax base.

Before the new $5 million Interstate 95 interchange at Trafton Road was built, the city entered into an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and the developer, Trafton Properties, that the city would help to rebuild Trafton Road, according to Roy. The TIF would allow the city a source of funding to pay for its share, which is limited to $500,000; and the state would pick up the rest of the cost of the $1.5 million construction, Roy said. He said he is not sure when the road will be rebuilt, because after the council approves the TIF, it goes to the state Department of Economic and Community Development for approval. How long that will take is unknown.

Before the council’s 6-0 vote — Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, was absent — resident Brad Sherwood asked whom the TIF was being created for.

“For the city and possibly any project developer coming down the road later,” Roy said.

Sherwood urged the city in the future to get financial documents from companies wanting TIFs because city officials do not know how wealthy Trafton Properties — owned by American Capital — is, and the city is funding $500,000 of the road work.

The goal of creating a TIF is to help boost economic development, according to Roy. It would allow the city to capture new tax dollars for that area and fund its share of the road construction cost, he said. He said he thinks the city will borrow $500,000 and use the TIF money to pay off its debt share for the borrowing.

The TIF would be for 30 years. Roy said for the first 20 years, 100 percent of new value in the district would be sheltered, 75 percent would be sheltered for years 21 through 25, and 50 percent in years 26 through 30. New value would include building construction in the district.

The new interchange in the southern part of the city is drawing interest from companies seeking to add a Trafton Road delivery and shipping address. Funded by federal, state and private money, the full interchange at mile 124, which includes northbound and southbound on and off ramps, opened in mid-July.

The DOT plans to rebuild Trafton Road to accommodate the changes and increased traffic. Businesses, city officials and those who live in the area say many more people are traveling Trafton Road to enter and exit I-95 at the interchange. People from Winslow who typically drove through Waterville and on Kennedy Memorial Drive to get to I-95 now are crossing Donald V. Carter Memorial Bridge from Winslow into Waterville, crossing Abenaki Road and driving south on West River Road to get to Trafton Road.

Garvan Donegan, senior economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, said last month that companies working in the areas of logistics and transportation, precision manufacturing, construction, marine technology and aquaculture, environmental services and energy are expressing interest in moving to the area where Trafton Properties, which provided major funding for the interchange, already has a building that is fully occupied with businesses at the corner of Trafton and West River roads. That 227,000-square-foot building is the former Wyandotte Mill.

Trafton Properties, which owns 921 acres in Sidney and Waterville, received approval Aug. 7 from the city’s Planning Board to build next to the former mill a 120,000-square-foot commercial building to house new businesses.

At the Planning Board meeting where the new commercial building was approved for Trafton Road, Christi Holmes, of Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers, of Gray, said the building would be constructed about a mile from the new I-95 interchange on a 75-acre site set back 150 feet from the southern abutter.

The building’s owner anticipates having six tenants who might use the space for warehousing, storage and possibly light manufacturing, she said.

The interchange project was funded by Trafton Properties, which pitched in $1.81 million plus engineering and other costs, a $1 million federal Economic Development Administration grant and $2 million from the state DOT.

The idea from the beginning was to have the interchange take pressure off Kennedy Memorial Drive, which is congested with traffic, including trucks entering and exiting I-95. Before the Trafton Road interchange was built, trucks traveled north on West River Road past Thomas College and entered I-95 via Kennedy Memorial Drive more than 5 miles away.

The interchange was the state’s first project under the Business Partnership Initiative, which gives road projects a higher priority if developers help pay for them. Geared toward projects that help local economic development efforts, it splits the project’s costs.

Ernie Martin, senior project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said last month that the department is planning to rebuild Trafton Road so that it is built to standard, similar to the way Lyons Road in Sidney was rebuilt after an I-95 interchange was built there many years ago.

Currently, travel lanes on Trafton Road are 10 feet wide. According to DOT’s current draft design, they would be widened to 11 feet with 4-foot paved shoulders, for a total of 30 feet of pavement, according to Martin.

DOT has funding for the design phase of the project, Martin said, but does not yet have right-of-way or construction funding.

While the road is city-owned, the state will take ownership in the future.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, who serves on the city’s TIF committee, urged the council to approve the Trafton Road TIF, saying it is a direct long-term economic development opportunity and the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and Central Maine Growth Council already are seeing increased interest in that area.

Roy noted that the DOT resurfaced Trafton Road recently. The road itself is included in the TIF district, as is Junction Road and the city may want to improve and possibly pave Junction Road, which is a gravel road, he said.

Councilor Nick Champagne, R-Ward 5, asked if Eight Rod Road also could get improvements. Roy said it could be an added expense within the TIF district even though it is not included in the 144 acres in the district.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 

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