Window work is done Thursday at Colby College’s Lockwood Hotel, left, and at an adjacent building at the right that Colby is turning into a Collaborative Arts space. A TIF proposal that includes both buildings and the Paul J. Schupf Art Center passed its first vote at the City Council meeting Tuesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday moved a step closer to approving a new tax increment financing district for three properties downtown that officials said would reap revenues the city can use for various downtown needs.

The Waterville City Council voted 6-1 to amend the current downtown TIF district and related development program by removing the three properties from that district, and voting 6-1 to create a new district and place the properties in that. The council must take second, final votes on each.

The properties to be removed and placed in the new district are 93 Main St., the site of the future Paul J. Schupf Art Center; 9 Main St., where the Lockwood Hotel is located; and 20 Main St., the former Waterville Hardware property and future Arts Collaborative.

City Manager Michael Roy emphasized that while the three properties are owned by Colby College, the TIF district doesn’t have anything to do with Colby and Colby will realize no benefit from the city’s actions.

The current TIF district expires in 15 years, and placing the properties in a new 30-year district, extends the TIF period for the properties by 15 years, officials said.

Roy said money to be realized from the new TIF, if it is approved, could be used for downtown needs, including for paying off a loan the city is expected to borrow in the next year or so to redesign the Concourse, the municipal parking lot in the heart of downtown. TIF revenues also could be used for parking management needs downtown, including possibly parking infrastructure or meters, according to Roy.

The TIF would allow the city to capture the tax revenues from those three buildings and have that money dedicated to certain needs in the downtown area, he said.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, was the lone dissenter on both TIF items, saying he thinks the city needs to more fully explain to the public what a TIF is.

“I, quite frankly, have more questions than answers about the tax increment financing, and I’d like to see the answers before I start voting to change the way things are set up,” he said.

But Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 7, who has had experience with several TIFs as chairman of the TIF Advisory Committee, said the idea for the TIF has been in the works for seven or eight years, and it will be a financial benefit to the city. He said it will increase the amount of revenue from the three properties over time.

“This is as close to a no-brainer as there is,” Thomas said. “There’s no downside for the city.”

Roy and Thomas said the city has held meetings and workshops about TIFs and are more than happy to explain them to people. Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, said he thought having a TIF workshop is a good idea.

“If the right messaging goes out to the community about what is actually happening here, then people will see the logic of it,” he said.

In the past, the council removed other properties from the current downtown TIF district, including the former Lockwood Mill properties on Water Street and the properties where the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons and DePre family properties are located on Main Street.

Tax increment financing is a program that allows cities and towns to shield new value from development from calculations to preserve the amount of state aid for education and revenue sharing they receive from state government, and the county tax assessments, saving residents some money.

In other matters, the council voted 7-0 to award to Crooker Construction LLC of Topsham a $9.28 million contract for the BUILD grant project downtown that will change the current one-way traffic pattern on Main and Front streets to two-way and make improvements to intersections, sidewalks and other public spaces. City officials recommended the contract be awarded to Crooker, the lowest bidder.

The total BUILD project budget is $11.2 million, but the construction budget is $9.4 million, according to Roy. The other $1.8 million is used for engineering, right of way and other requirements.

The project will start in the spring of 2021 with an expected completion date of November 2022, according to Roy.

Ernie Martin, project manager for the state Department of Transportation, said at Tuesday’s virtual meeting, that $7.4 million of the project will come from the federal BUILD grant, $1.375 million from the state Department of Transportation, $1 million from the city and $1.57 million from Colby.

Martin, who is overseeing the project, said that before construction begins in March, contractors doing the work will have a public hearing so residents, businesses and others may look at contractors’ schedules. Contractors will issue biweekly updates to the city, which will post them on the city’s website so people will know what is happening with the project and when it will affect certain areas.

In separate matters Tuesday, councilors took the first of two needed votes to change the city’s zoning ordinance to grant three requests: allow a community ice rink to be built at 132 North St.; add rules for short-term residential units to the city’s ordinance; and change the ordinance for keeping chickens from 10,000 square feet lot size to 8,000 square feet.

The Alfond Youth & Community Center and Central Maine Youth Hockey want to build a more than $4 million indoor community ice rink on city-owned property at 132 North St., but three changes must occur for that to happen: part of the lot must be rezoned from Resource Protection to Institutional Zone; the shoreland part of the parcel must be rezoned from Resource Protection to Class B shoreland; and the Institutional Zone must be revised to reduce building setback requirements.

Two votes must be taken on the issue, and the council could take only one vote Tuesday. The vote was 6-1 with Francke the lone dissenter. He made a motion that the council postpone voting on the matter, saying he thinks public input is needed about where a rink should be located and what it should include. His motion failed for lack of a second.

The council voted  7-0 to approve rules for short-term residential rental units. The city does not have rules for short-term residential rentals now, and the Planning Board recommends the council approve rules its members developed. Two votes also are required for the issue to be finalized.

Councilors voted 5-2 to reduce the lot size for keeping chickens in the zoning ordinance from 10,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet. The Planning Board recommended the council change the rule change, which also requires two votes. The issue arose when Pleasantdale Avenue resident Phil Bofia requested changes be made because he thought the city’s chicken rules were too restrictive.

Francke and Richard Foss Jr., Ward 5, voted against reducing the lot size.

The council took a final, 7-0 vote  to sell to Pine Tree Waste Services, a Casella company, property in the Airport Road Subdivision; a final, 7-0 vote to rezone part of 435 West River Road from Residential-B to Rural Residential to allow Richard Breton of L/A Properties to build an access road for expansion of Countryside Mobile Home Park; and a final 7-0 vote to accept $86,675 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster relief.

The council also voted 7-0 to authorize Roy to sign a four-month lease with Vacationland Skydiving for office space in the terminal building at Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport; 7-0 to buy a specialty service utility vehicle for use at the airport; and 7-0 to refer to the Planning Board for public hearing and recommendation a request to revise the contract zone on the city’s zoning map to allow for Half Pints Daycare LLC to be at 155 Kennedy Memorial Drive. Currently, only professional offices are allowed there.

City Clerk Patti Dubois said the city is filling vacancies on committees and anyone interested in serving may submit an application which is posted on the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov or obtain an application from her office at City Hall.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.