“The headlines in the newspaper will say ‘City Council gives tax break,’ but nobody’s getting a tax break,” Council President Paul Guanci said. “This is an incentive. It’s still significant tax revenue for the city.”
Councilor Jim Latter acknowledged that some people wondered whether developers would build anyway, even without the tax break.
But, Latter said, referring to the lack of vibrancy on Rantoul Street, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
Ward 2 Councilor Wes Slate said he was concerned about the progress that the city of Peabody is trying to make with its downtown, saying, “We could be left in the dust.”
Noting that the Rantoul Street tax incentive district is in his ward, Slate said, “This proposal is critical for our city to move forward.”
Councilor-at-large Jason Silva said he did not understand how people could perceive the plan as a “revenue giveaway.” In every previous instance where the city has given tax incentives, “It’s been a huge home run,” he said.
“We do not lose money doing this,” he said. “I don’t know why people even say that.”
Silva proposed an even higher incentive of 80 percent for the first five years and 40 percent for the next five, but councilors did not go along with that. Councilor Don Martin proposed a 65/25 plan, figures that Mayor Bill Scanlon had also suggested, but was also voted down.
Councilor Scott Houseman suggested that the train depot not be included in the tax district, for fear that the city would be giving an incentive for developers to alter the historic depot. But other councilors said the depot is protected by historic preservation laws.
Councilors must still take one more vote at their next meeting to make the law official.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.