Community Members Weigh in at TIF District Workshop Meeting

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Thursday July 12, 2012

On Tuesday evening June 26th, twenty-five community members gathered for a presentation and conversation session about the potential TIF District. Project Director, Ilona Blanchard, greeted everyone warmly at the door with sign in sheets and snacks. At 7:30 pm everyone settled in for an informative presentation by Ms. Blanchard designed to increase understanding of a TIF (“an economic development tool to fund public infrastructure that results in redevelopment that otherwise would not occur”). There was also a viewing of public projects that have been proposed and individuals were given an opportunity to add to the list. Ms. Blanchard encouraged everyone to consider a few points when informally prioritizing the projects (which we would have a chance to do later in an activity) chiefly, “What would make you value the city center? What is going to make you want to work here, play here, or start a business here?”

Ms. Blanchard’s presentation addressed many points concerning the TIF. Such as, how a TIF District funds public infrastructure. The private sector builds and over 20 years, 75% of the taxes raised on the increased value (of the TIF) stay with the city (instead of going to the state) and 25% of the school taxes raised on the increased value go to the state education fund. Some of the initial steps that need to occur are that the City Council would need to adopt the TIF and allow it to be submitted to the Vermont Economic Progress Council. They review the designation for feasibility and ensure that the progress guidelines are met. Next, there is a debt ceiling vote city-wide, studies and scoping are done, design/ property acquisition, then construction. After residents vote on a debt ceiling, the City has 5 years to obtain financing to build public projects. “We will be learning about this for years,” Ms. Blanchard said.

Vermont benefits in a myriad of ways. One is by achieving a stronger rate of growth than Vermont would otherwise experience. It would assist in realizing goals for the City, and after 20 years the tax revenues would be significant. The City can always build fewer projects or choose to incur less debt. If the macro economic outlook is poor, the City can ask for an extension on the projects. “We want to come out with more financial security, not less,” Blanchard said.

After the presentation, photos with accompanying text of each proposed project were placed on a wall and each person was given eights dots to place on the projects that were most important to them. This provided a great opportunity for everyone to get up, mingle, and engage in dialogue. The projects included: City Hall, the community library, recreation building, storm water infrastructure, village green, parking garage, complete streets, safe streets/routes to schools, Williston Road streetscape, an indoor market/incubator space, stream improvements/park improvements, a bike/pedestrian bridge over I-89, Street A (from Dorset Street at Healthy Living through Midas and White Street), and Street B (through Mary Street in any of 3 directions to San Remo Drive).

When the votes had been tabulated, the indoor market/incubator space (which had been proposed by workshop participant, Donna Leban) had received the most votes. Coming in second, was the Village Green project, third, was the complete streets. Although, this voting was an exercise and unofficial, the workshop certainly served as a valuable tool for Ms. Blanchard to better gage the town’s interest in terms of what projects should be prioritized. 

The City’s new Facebook page is a great way to stay up to date on the progress of the proposed TIF District. The planning department projects website is also a good source for updates and opportunities to have your voice heard.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent