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September 25, 2012

Plan for tax-break zone debated

Beverly: Committee considers preservation of historic buildings on Rantoul Street

BEVERLY — City Councilor Scott Houseman last night raised the question of how to preserve historically significant buildings on Rantoul Street in Beverly while at the same time giving tax breaks to developers.

“I’m not one to say we need to save every historically significant building, but the character of our city is important,” Houseman said.

The City Council is considering a controversial proposal that would grant tax breaks to developers who build residential developments in a section of Rantoul Street near the train station.

The plan is designed to rejuvenate the area by establishing a residential base that would lead to new retail businesses. It was proposed by Beverly Main Streets and has the backing of Mayor Bill Scanlon.

The proposal is now before the City Council’s Finance and Property Committee, which met last night at City Hall. The committee decided to hold the matter to consider a couple of concerns raised by Houseman, including historical preservation.

Houseman, who said he supports the concept of the residential tax break, said he plans to submit an order that would provide developers with additional incentives to save historically significant buildings.

“Rantoul Street has some of our most historically significant buildings,” he said. “It behooves us to be careful.”

In an interview after the meeting, Houseman said he’s not sure whether the council can carve out exceptions for historic buildings under the Urban Center Housing and Tax Increment Financing Zone, the state plan that the city is considering. Only two other communities, Quincy and Easton, have created a TIF zone since the law was implemented in 2005.

“I think the jury is still out on that because there are so few examples,” he said. “We’re sort of making new ground here. I think it’s worth the City Council saying, ‘We tried.’”

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