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October 1, 2012

Council president backs Beverly tax plan

BEVERLY — City Council President Paul Guanci has endorsed the concept of giving tax breaks to developers to encourage development along Rantoul Street.

In a letter to his fellow councilors, Guanci said the city’s Economic and Community Development Council, which he chairs, has voted unanimously to support the proposal.

Guanci said the economic council has concluded that giving tax breaks is “an effective and appropriate tool for encouraging economic development, and that its use on Rantoul Street has the real potential to initiate positive reinvestment in this area of the downtown.”

The proposal, which the City Council must approve, would create an Urban Center Housing and Tax Increment Financing district on 24 acres of Rantoul Street. Developers who build within the district would be given up to a 50 percent tax break on any improvements made to their property.

The proposal was developed by Beverly Main Streets and has been endorsed by Mayor Bill Scanlon, but drew vocal opposition at a public hearing last month.

Beverly would become only the third community in the state, after Quincy and Easton, to adopt a so-called residential TIF district, which is allowed under a 2005 law passed by the state Legislature.

But unlike Beverly, Quincy and Easton created the districts for specific, large-scale projects. Quincy is set to undertake a massive, $1.6 billion project that has been called the largest historic downtown revitalization in the country. Easton is renovating a former factory site into apartment buildings as part of a $40 million plan.

In Beverly, there is no specific project in place. The proposed district includes 45 separate parcels with several different owners, ranging from Edwards Street to Bow Street.

“We’re really the first ones trying to incentivize developers to come anywhere within a specific district on a smaller community scale,” Main Streets Executive Director Gin Wallace said.

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