REAL ESTATE AND DEVELOPMENT: Midtown developer applies for tax credit program

The developer of the long-delayed “midtown” project in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood has applied for $4.3 million in tax credits from a state program that has been a target of criticism from regulators and legislators.

The Finance Authority of Maine is considering an application from an investment group seeking approval for a $10 million investment in a subsidiary of The Federated Cos., the Miami-based developer of the midtown project. Such an investment would trigger the release of nearly $4.3 million in taxpayer-financed tax credits.

The application is the first to test new rules adopted by the state agency that oversees the Maine New Markets Capital Investment program. Although the application was submitted Nov. 6, the developer asked for a postponement on its approval while it considers the suitability of the financing for the project. Read the story.

Home sales flat, but prices rise

Sales of existing, detached single-family homes in Maine were down 0.8 percent in October compared with a year earlier, while the median sale price increased by 7.1 percent, the Maine Association of Realtors said Monday.

A separate report issued Wednesday by RE/MAX Integra of New England, which included both detached homes and condominiums, showed similar results, with combined sales down 1.1 percent and prices up 6.5 percent in Maine from October 2014.

The report from Maine Listings, a subsidiary of the Realtors association, said 1,561 homes sold in October for a median price of $187,500, compared with $175,000 a year earlier. The median price indicates that half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less. Read the story.

ENERGY: EPA deadline spurs concern over ethanol-gas changes

The debate over the use of ethanol in gasoline is heating up again as federal regulators on Nov. 30 will consider increasing the mandated amount of the corn-based biofuel used in the country’s fuel supply, a move that would worry many in Maine.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed revising its renewable fuel standard, or RFS, and potentially increasing the amount of ethanol mixed into traditional petroleum-based fuels. The change could affect a wide range of consumers people who own older cars that aren’t designed to handle a higher ethanol-blend fuel; owners of gas stations who would have to upgrade their facilities to accommodate a new fuel mix; boat owners, snowmobile enthusiasts and other operators of small-engine equipment, who say ethanol ruins the machines; and Maine farmers who rely on corn products to feed their livestock.

U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins of Maine have already announced their opposition to raising the percentage of ethanol in gasoline, and Collins, a Republican, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to eliminate the corn ethanol mandate from the renewable fuel standard. Read the story.

Scotland launches project originally planned for Maine

A global energy company that abandoned plans two years ago to build a $120 million demonstration wind farm off the Maine coast following opposition from Gov. Paul LePage is moving ahead with a similar project in Scotland.

The decision is inviting an examination of what Maine may be losing in terms of jobs and private investment, as well as its ambitions to become a center of global research in an evolving, clean-energy industry.

Norway-based Statoil announced this month that it had made a final decision to build Hywind Scotland, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm. The $228 million project will be located 15 miles off the northeast coast in Peterhead, near Aberdeen.

Power production is set for late 2017. The company had pursued a similar project in Maine until political maneuvering threatened its power purchase agreement with Maine utility regulators and Statoil pulled out. Read the story.

Gas depot owner addresses South Portland concerns

NGL Supply Terminal Co. has promised that its controversial proposal for a liquefied petroleum gas depot at Rigby Yard in South Portland would be even safer than its current rail distribution site on Commercial Street in Portland.

NGL’s assurances don’t mean much to some South Portland city councilors and residents, who have intensified opposition to the Rigby Yard proposal because they fear a propane depot could be the site of a catastrophic explosion near the Cash Corner and Thornton Heights neighborhoods. Their latest effort, a proposed fire code amendment, could block development of propane storage and delivery facilities throughout much of the city.

But NGL representatives say the company’s safety record matters, including at least a decade without a reported public safety incident at the Portland terminal. They won’t comment on rumors that NGL is scoping out other potential rail delivery sites in Greater Portland, saying that the company is committed to moving to Rigby Yard by next spring so the state can begin building a cold storage facility at the Commercial Street site. Read the story.

RETAIL: Sudden restaurant closures leave workers in the lurch

Workers are scrambling following the sudden closure of at least eight Tim Hortons restaurants and two Pizza Hut chains across Maine this past week.

Officials say the Tim Hortons in Lewiston, Auburn, Norway, Topsham, South Portland and Augusta all shut their doors for good. The two now-closed Pizza Huts were located in Auburn.

The Toronto-based chain did not respond to repeated requests for information about which stores in Maine have closed. Read the story.

FISHING: Shrimp season expected to remain closed in 2016

A key panel says Maine shrimp are still depleted and fishing regulators’ moratorium on fishing for them should remain in effect in 2016.

Fishermen haven’t been able to catch the shrimp since 2013. They were previously sought by commercial fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and were a popular winter item at fish markets.

The interstate Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Northern Shrimp Technical Committee says prospects for shrimp recovery are poor for the near future. The committee is asking the Northern Shrimp Section to extend the moratorium at a Dec. 7 meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Read the story.