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Residents Learn More About Economic Tool Aimed At Jump-Starting Redevelopment of Factory Complex

June 29, 2016 Business, Community, Environment, Government No Comments

A "panoramic" iPhone view of the Collins Co. Photo by John Fitts

By John Fitts

CANTON — A consultant charged with helping the town work on plan to help jumpstart redevelopment of the Collins Company complex began its work Tuesday.

During the day, representatives from Saratoga-Springs based Camoin Associates, in the first of several visits to town, interviewed complex owner “Rusty” Tilney, talked to merchants and potential developers and spoke at two public meetings as the first step in developing a Tax Increment Finance, or TIF, Master Plan for the property and perhaps some of the surrounding area. TIF involves taking a portion of the additional tax revenues generated by a development, or redevelopment, and investing them back into the project and/or related improvements.

At a public workshop Tuesday evening Camoin senior vice president Jim Damicis provided an overview for approximately 30 residents and the Canton Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Steering Committee.

In this case, the master plan would involve the general guidelines the town could use as a springboard to enter into an agreement with a future developer. Damicis said his company has been involved in some 75 projects, mostly in Maine and is excited about a relatively new state law that revamps the process in Connecticut. It’s not a cure-all but a powerful tool, he said.

“This is not a silver bullet for economic development,” he said. “It’s one tool in the mix.”

Damicis clarified that the process does not involve the town fronting its own money in a private project, but rather setting aside and reinvesting some of those future tax dollars back into economic development.

Those dollars can be used for such items as infrastructure, land acquisition, construction, demolition or remodeling, streetscapes, professional services, administrative needs, off-site improvements or bond payments. They can also be used to help support related costs such as impact to services or education.

The new Connecticut legislation is flexible, requiring only local approvals and does not require the town to use any options it’s not comfortable with, Damicis said.

“You can determine as a community how much of it will be used for economic development,” he said.

On Tuesday, some community members questioned how a TIF process could move forward without a new owner in place – or the accuracy of scenarios developed absent a specific plan.

While there are developers interested in the complex, no one has signed a contract to purchase it.

Damicis acknowledged that many TIF plans involve a specific developer.

While specifics would need to be ironed out,  Damicis said the town can still lay the groundwork and the options it would like to use.

There are numerous options about how it wants to approach a TIF such as what percentage to “capture” for economic development, where to draw the project boundaries, whether to include one property or several, whether to involve any public improvements outside but related to the project and what types of financing to utilize.

The process does not mandate any agreements with potential developers and the town has full control of what options it chooses, Damicis said.

Gary Roman, chairman of the Canton Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Steering Committee said the master plan will prepare the town should it want to negotiate a specific TIF agreement with a developer – which would be the second phase of the project.

“We want to do that now so we’re ready to handle a developer that wants to come forward,” he said.

Roman said it was a chicken or egg scenario.

“We’re choosing to start with the egg,” he said. “Maybe the chicken will come along.”

Steering committee member Tyla Permenter said the idea is to provide some incentive to developers – and their investors and hopefully attract more interested parties.

“The TIF increment plan provides a little carrot to developers,” she said. “I think we’ll bring in a larger community of developers and it gives us more to choose from. It puts us in the driver’s seat.”

In operation from the 1820s to 1966, the Collins Company was famous world-wide for its high-quality edge tools. With its 19 acres and 13 buildings the complex is still active with some 40 tenants that include and antiques business, artists, photographers, woodworkers, a teen alternative metal workers and more.

Opinions about appropriate development at the complex vary greatly in town but concerning for many is the rapid deterioration of many of its buildings. Town officials also eye tax revenue they preliminarily estimate at more than a million, compared to the $32,131 it generates now. While a specific project will affect the numbers, Camoin also plans to further hone potential tax revenue estimates.

The complex is listed at $3.9 million.

Under the terms of a Connecticut Main Street Center grant, which funded $10,000 of Camoin’s $19,520 fee, the master plan must be completed by Sept. 30.

See Camoin Associates’ presentation for the evening below. Use tools at the bottom of the box to zoom, scroll or see a full-screen version. 

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