SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 16, 2012

70 percent tax break suggested for developers

BEVERLY — Developers on Rantoul Street could get up to a 70 percent tax break under a plan approved by a City Council subcommittee last night at Beverly City Hall.

The Finance and Property Committee voted 2-1 to grant developers a 70 percent tax break for the first five years and a 30 percent break for the next five years to build housing on a section of Rantoul Street near the train station.

The vote marked the first time that councilors have voted on the Urban Center Housing and Tax Increment Financing Program, a state program that allows communities to give tax breaks, known as TIFs, for residential developments in an effort to revitalize downtown areas.

The proposal now goes to the full City Council. Beverly would be only the third community in the state, behind Quincy and Easton, to adopt the program.

City Council President Paul Guanci said he believes there are enough councilors in favor of the TIF program. The question last night was how large and for how long the tax break should be.

Beverly Main Streets, the organization that has been advocating for the program, said it favored making the tax break 80 percent for the first five years and 40 percent for the next five. Thomas Miller, a consultant for Main Streets, said the tax incentive had to be high enough to attract developers.

Guanci said Mayor Bill Scanlon, who was not at last night’s meeting, favored a smaller tax break of 65 and 25 percent.

Councilor Don Martin agreed with the 65-25 split, saying it was “more favorable to taxpayers yet still beneficial to the developer.”

Guanci suggested that the councilors split the difference between Scanlon and Main Streets and recommended a 70-30 arrangement.

“A lot of times we get criticized for the mayor telling us what to do,” Guanci said.

Martin, saying he wanted to move the proposal forward, voted in favor of the 70-30 along with Guanci. The third member of the Finance and Property Committee, Scott Houseman, voted no, saying he believed the committee needed more time to consider what kind of development the city is hoping to attract.

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