Concerns About TIF Fund Arise at Master Plan Meeting

Londonderry Comprehensive Planner John Vogl reminded his fellow Master Plan Implementation Committee members that the general thought was that once the area near the airport was “opened up,” it would fill in a heartbeat.

“We’re finding that to be the case,” he said at the group’s Wednesday, June 25 meeting. “There’s three projects filling close to a million square feet.”

But his presentation generated concern among a few members that money they expected to go back to the taxpayers was instead going to sit in a TIF fund.

“The project that is furthest along is FedEx, which is using three lots and will be roughly a 300,000-square-foot facility,” Vogl said. He noted the FedEx site plan has been approved and the project is under construction.

“At the same time, working through the design review process is Milton CAT, which is off Industrial Drive and will be an 80,000-square-foot building and 15,000-square-foot outbuilding, Vogl said. “The virtue of these two properties is that they don’t need Pettengill Road. They can use existing roadway infrastructure.”

He continued, “The other project working its way through is the Prologis (UPS) facility. That’s in design review, they’ve been before Conservation and before Heritage and they had a conceptual review before Planning Board.”

Vogl said the UPS building is a half-million-square-foot distribution building with some light assembly and 250 employees. “Their access would be off the airport access road, the stub of Pettengill Road,” he explained. “Pettengill Road will be constructed for about 1,800 feet, and that provides for the first leg (of that road).”

Committee member Mary Wing Soares asked whether the taxes that would be generated by that building must go into the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district.

While committee member Mike Speltz said the TIF doesn’t exist yet, Vogl explained that it does exist and was adopted by the Town Council.

Committee member Deb Paul, who is publisher of the Londonderry Times, said the taxes for these new structures will sit in a fund for 3 years and can only be used for infrastructure project and will not help with taxes.

“That’s only if we have to build Pettengill Road,” Soares said. “If we don’t have to build Pettengill Road, why would we have a bond? If there is no bond, why would the taxes generated by this building go into a TIF? You’re telling us that any money that comes from this building will go into a fund that is a TIF account.”

“Any revenue that is generated from that building,” Vogl said.

“So that will not go to offset our taxes,” Soares said.

In an interview with Town Manager Kevin Smith earlier in the day, Smith said the TIF was instituted at a time when the town was looking at ways to fund Pettengill Road.

“The district was set up in case there was a bond, and monies from businesses that built in the TIF area would go to paying off that bond,” Smith said. “However, Prologis (UPS) came and said that they would build part of the road as part of their project.

“Let’s take a scenario,” he said. “UPS builds half of Pettengill Road, as they are planning to do. Revenue from UPS, FedEx and Milton CAT goes into the TIF. Say the town decides it needs to build the other half of Pettengill Road two or two and a half years from now. The money that has been put aside in the TIF will pay for that and the taxpayers now have the full road and there was no bond or any debt incurred.

“You don’t need a bond or any debt to have a TIF or to use the money from the TIF to create the infrastructure the TIF was designed to pay for,” Smith emphasized.

Smith said that if money from a TIF was not spent in 36 months, the money reverts to the General Fund. “The Town Council can put the money in the General Fund before that if it chooses to,” Smith added.

Smith explained that the TIF account is established when the TIF is created. “It’s part and parcel of the same vote,” he said, referring to the Council vote to establish a TIF.

Paul said it was specifically stated when the TIF was being discussed at the Town Council that “everything would be brought forward before money goes into any fund or a TIF gets passed. So what you’re telling me is that we were lied to,” she said.

Vogl responded that people would only vote on a general obligation bond. “So if the town takes out a bond to build the road, that would be a general obligation bond and that would be a town vote,” Vogl said.

According to Town Attorney Michael Ramsdell, “Any confusion may be the result of overlooking that the Town of Londonderry has a Town Charter that provides for a Town Council. By adopting a Town Charter and a Town Council, the Town Council became empowered to exercise the authority otherwise reserved for the voting public at a town meeting.”

The operative statute is RSA 49-D:3, I(a), Ramsdell said.

“Under the circumstances, I believe the Town Council properly followed the law,” he said. The Town Council properly acted as Londonderry’s ‘legislative body’ in October 2013 (when it established the TIF). Moreover, the presentation at the public hearing also advised the public that a vote of the Town would be necessary to pass a bond for the TIF.”

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