KENNEBUNK — Voters will decide at a town meeting Wednesday whether to create a tax program that would fund sidewalk repairs, landscaping and other improvements in Lower Village.

Under the proposed program, property taxes from new development in the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district would be put into an account for Lower Village projects. The program would not affect how much the town pays in county taxes or receives in state aid for schools, and it would not provide tax breaks to developers.

”Really we want to be able to capture those additional incremental dollars — or dollars that are above and beyond — (and) keep it in Lower Village so we’re not asking for extra money to do really basic repairs,” said Bonnie Clement, a member of the town’s Lower Village Committee and owner of H.B. Provisions.

The committee has identified more than a dozen possible projects, both modest and highly ambitious, that could be funded through the program. The ideas include marketing materials, sidewalk improvements, repairs of the causeway fence, public restrooms and burying utility wires.

The 30-year program would capture the new property tax revenues from about 10 commercial parcels identified as most likely to undergo development or improvements. The account, however, would not be limited to projects for those parcels.

The prospect of projects to increase the visibility and accessibility of Lower Village was welcomed by several merchants in the area. More signs, additional lighting and, especially, improved sidewalks were high on the wish list.

”It could be much more of a pedestrian area,” said Bonnie Tahan, owner of The Little Red Wagon. ”We get very limited pedestrian traffic here (even though) it’s such a quick walk from Dock Square.”

The TIF plan is not without its critics.

Resident and former town employee Rachel Phipps is worried about redirecting future property tax revenues into a separate account and away from Kennebunk’s operating budget, especially in these lean times.

”TIF money is tax money that’s been diverted, captured, into the special fund,” she said. ”That money is being diverted from our operating budget, so it does have an impact and it does affect taxes.”

Phipps is also concerned that the proposal has not been discussed enough and that the town’s selectmen will be approving how the funds are spent.

Development has already taken place on one of the identified parcels, the site of Kennebooks on Port Road. Because the proposal would be retroactive to April 1, 2009, that parcel would put about $5,000 a year into the TIF account, said Town Manager Barry Tibbetts.

Because there’s no way to predict how and when the parcels might be developed, there’s no timetable or estimate of how much money the program would generate, Tibbetts said.

Improvements could be made as the money becomes available, with selectmen deciding on expenditures. A bonded project — such as the one voters approved in November for downtown — would require a townwide vote.

If approved, the Lower Village TIF program would be the town’s fourth. One involves the West Kennebunk industrial park, another captures new property tax revenue from Route 1 to fund downtown projects, and the third captures a portion of new valuation for a Central Maine Power corridor for public safety and public works vehicles.

The town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Edward C. Winston Town Hall Auditorium.

Residents also will be deciding whether to allow some funds in the heating-fuel assistance program to be used to help recipients with home weatherization. Selectmen would make the decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The other items on the warrant are proposed technical changes to the victualer and lodging licenses ordinance; the removal of slope as a consideration of what constitutes a net development area and net lot area in the zoning ordinance; and whether to accept Henri Drive, a road in Mayflower Estates that is built to town standards, as a public way.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]