AUGUSTA — Proposals to give two tax breaks — one for senior housing, the other for a proposed new life for a former church — go to city councilors for discussion Thursday.

One tax increment financing agreement would help a developer build a new 42-unit senior citizen affordable housing complex off Civic Center Drive, while the other would assist a developer trying to restore and repurpose the former St. Mark’s Episcopal Church property.

The city staff and a tax increment financing subcommittee both recommend the city grant TIFs to the developers behind the two proposals in Augusta.

Tim Gooch, of Freeport, wants to build 42 units of senior housing at 10 Civic Center Drive, roughly across from the entrance to the University of Maine at Augusta, an area that has been cleared of trees in recent years. His proposed TIF deal would return 33 percent of the tax revenue generated by the new development to him to be used to help fund the project for the 20 years, which is estimated to total a little more than $600,000. The city would retain the rest of the new tax revenue generated by the project, which is projected to total $1.2 million.

TIFs allow municipalities to shelter property taxes generated by new development within designated districts. Sheltering money through a TIF means it would not be added to the city’s total property valuation for state tax calculation purposes. Without that, as a municipality’s total property valuation increases, its state-provided revenue — such as aid for education and revenue sharing — decreases, and its county tax liability increases. New value sheltered in a TIF doesn’t count toward a municipality’s property tax value.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the TIF for Gooch’s proposed development would shelter more than enough money so the city would not lose any tax revenue by granting the TIF. He said having a TIF also would help the project secure MaineHousing funding through a competitive process and thus increase the odds it will be approved and built.

“It would be revenue-neutral for us and we end up with 42 units of brand-new low-income senior citizen housing, which is a win-win,” Bridgeo said.

Application materials from Gooch note, “Simply put, without a TIF this project is not feasible.”

The other proposed TIF would help Augusta resident Adam Turner repurpose the former St. Mark’s Episcopal Church property. He bought it from the church in 2018 with the intent of saving the property and converting its parish hall into three apartments while turning the historic church into a community gathering space that could host the performing arts, weddings, social justice gatherings and other events.

The proposal would return 69 percent of new tax revenue generated by the development to Turner, a projected $123,000 over the 20-year TIF lifespan, though he still would have to pay the full tax bill and then be reimbursed by the city after he submits documentation that he spent funds on the project that contribute to the goal of preserving the redevelopment of the building.

City councilors are scheduled to discuss both proposals at their 6:30 p.m. meeting Thursday, in the council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors also are scheduled to discuss:

• Where a proposed Augusta police station should be built: either next to the current police headquarters on Union Street or on a 74 Water St. site on the northern end of downtown, where the Apgar building and former PJ’s building stand, at the corner of Laurel and Water streets. Councilors are expected to hear an update on the locations and other issues related to the proposed new police station from consultants.

• Whether to seek a recommendation from the Planning Board about whether to change the zoning of property at 3 Bangor St., now a car wash, to allow the property to be converted into a medical marijuana retail store.

• How the city should sell a parcel of tax-acquired property with frontage on Togus Pond, a piece of land in which Bridgeo said the owners of Cushnoc Brewing Co. have expressed interest. Bridgeo recommends the city sell it in a public auction.

• Bridgeo’s proposed capital improvement plan for the next five years, which includes plans for $2.5 million in projects next year. In his proposal, the projects would be funded by $1.5 million in revenues generated by a TIF on natural gas infrastructure that returns taxes on the infrastructure to the city, $750,000 from a proposed bond to be considered by councilors, and $250,000 from a child care account fund balance to replace the roof at Buker Community Center, where the city’s child care programs are located. The plan includes, for projects proposed to be funded next year in the capital improvement plan, $450,000 to reconstruct Cushnoc Drive to Abenaki Road, $400,000 to rebuild Columbia Street, $215,000 to buy a new ambulance, $125,000 for citywide crosswalk safety improvements and $100,000 for repairs to the city parking garage off Dickman Street.

 

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