Richard Bielinski of Londonderry is sponsoring warrant article petitions to dissolve all Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Districts and revitalization districts, and to require a ballot vote to establish any new TIF or revitalization districts.
“The article I proposed doesn’t preclude TIFs from happening; but instead of five councilors making the decision, I want the people to vote,” he said.
Bielinski sponsored a warrant article petition last year to dissolve the Town’s Airport TIF, which was established to generate funds to meet the Town’s obligation for a new traffic light on Pettengill Road as detailed in the development agreement with Ballinger/Five N, the partnership behind the development of the new Fed/Ex building.
But due to a misunderstanding of the filing date, Bielisnki did not submit his petition on time and the proposal didn’t make it to the FY16 Town Warrant.
This year’s petitions “come down to the same thing,” according to Bielinski.
“It comes down to the fact they’re spending people’s money for private development. I haven’t talked to one person who is in favor of them spending our money to help private developers,” he said.
To move his warrant to the FY17 Warrant, Bielinski needs 20 signatures and a nod from the Town Attorney that his article doesn’t conflict with local or State statutes.
Per his article to dissolve all municipal TIFs, any funds sitting in or due any Municipal Economic Development and Revitalization District holding account is to be transferred to the General Fund for the sole purpose of offsetting the tax rate.
“It’s a problem when they say it doesn’t affect the tax rate; because if it was there, it would lower the tax rate,” he said. “Any use of money, whether it’s a credit or debit to town accounts, affects the tax rate.”
The total assessed value of the second Airport Area TIF, which the Council adopted in October, is over $600,000. The original airport TIF established to pay for the traffic light is to expire with the arrival of the new year.
Development of the parcels included in the new 202-acre TIF District will be industrial in nature, with the tenant for a proposed manufacturing facility on Pettengill Road moving through the Town’s permitting process.
As part of plans for the industrial facility, the developer, who has yet to be announced, has proposed construction of North Spur Road, which will connect the facility to the new Pettengill Road.
With incremental tax revenue from the new TIF, at an amount not to exceed $1.2 million, the Town will reimburse developers for the construction of North and South Spur Roads within the District.
Upon meeting the obligation, the TIF District will immediately terminate.
Bielinski noted the development agreement with Ballinger/Five N states the Town irrevocably waived its right to assess and collect any impact fees or assess or impose any offsite improvement charges or other fees, costs or charges directly related to the expansion, enlargement or other improvements associated with future expansion of Pettengill Road from two lanes to four lanes due to future development of the properties against Ballinger/ Five N.
“I see them coming back for more money to pave the additional two lanes,” he said. “People think I’m anti-growth. I’m not. I just don’t think we should be paying any of our taxes for development.”
Proponents of using TIFs as a tool for driving economic development in town note that since the creation of the first airport TIF District, the Town has added $78 million from new development in the Pettengill Road area, revenue that is going back on the tax rolls this year.
“Only $11 million in valuation, about $232,000, was held back for the Town’s obligation to a new traffic light,” Town Manager Kevin Smith said.
Further, Smith anticipates that with the next users coming through the pipeline, future development in the Pettengill area will generate an additional $90 million in valuation.
“In our conversations with landowners and developers, we have been told if the Town hadn’t done these (TIFs), there would be no revenue to speak of,” Smith said at the Town Council’s Oct. 19 meeting. “They had other options to build in other places.”
“Where?” asks Bielinski, who has experience in real estate and argues that because of the property’s zoning and proximity to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, as well as two major highways, the developers would come regardless of the Town’s $250,000 commitment to a traffic light.
“If someone is going to build a building the size of UPS/Pratt Whitney because they want to be near transportation and the airport – if they go somewhere else and they’re not near the airport, they’re going to spend that money in one year trucking their inventory,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to play the game; you have to do that in life. People build buildings based on location, infrastructure and the transportation needs they have.”
But the Town Council has maintained that without an investment from the Town, much of the development in the area of Pettengill Road would not have come to fruition.
“If you want to entertain the idea the developer would have folded and built even if the Town hadn’t committed the $250,000 for the traffic light, that’s fine when you’re betting your own money; but don’t bet with my money or someone else’s money,” Councilor Tom Freda said in October. “You need to look at the big picture, and the stream of revenue coming in.”
Bielinski said he would be more comfortable with the idea of establishing TIF Districts to facilitate commercial development if it were done so by majority ballot vote at the General Town Elections.
“If we’re going to put in TIFs, I could live with it a lot better if it went to a ballot vote and 50 percent plus one vote approved it. If the people want it, the people want it,” he said. “But I don’t want five people making the decision for me.”