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Residents at Town Meeting Favorable to Exploring Tax Increment Financing for Collins Co. Complex, Village of Collinsville

January 21, 2016 Business, Community, Government No Comments
Neil Pade, the town's director of planning and community development, talks about the concept of Tax Increment Financing. Photo by John Fitts

Neil Pade, the town’s director of planning and community development, talks about the concept of Tax Increment Financing.
Photo by John Fitts

By John Fitts 

On Wednesday night, attendees at the annual town meeting took a non-binding vote to support the town’s efforts to create a Tax Increment Financing District Master Plan in hopes of encouraging re-development of the Collins Company complex.

Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is the idea to use some of the additional tax revenues a project would generate and put them back into the project itself or into related area improvements, such as public infrastructure, land acquisition, revolving loans, façade improvements and even technical and marketing expertise. It can often be a multi-year process.

The concept is not new to Connecticut a new state law went into effect Oct. 1, 2015.  That legislation gives the town much flexibility in defining a district – or project area – deciding how to use the funds, exploring a host of financing and timing options, setting parameters and more, said Neil Pade, the town’s director of planning and community development.

“It puts the decision-making and the power to control your own fate with the municipalities themselves,” Pade said about the new legislation. “The legislature has left the door wide open for municipalities to have these discussions. Again, it’s surprisingly flexible.”

Recently the town received a $10,000 Preservation of Place grant from Connecticut Main Street Center to help develop a TIF district and Master Plan that would set the parameters on a TIF option for the factory and downtown Collinsville, should the town decide ever to move forward with one. Officials estimate the cost of a consultant to develop the plan between $12,000 and $25,000. The additional funds are expected to come from the Economic Development Agency’s marketing budget.

The town is expected to start seeking proposals later this week and the process will involve hearings and other public input and land-use approval, officials said.

Some of the complex buildings, especially in the rear, are in very poor shape. Photo by John Fitts

Some of the complex buildings, especially in the rear, are in very poor shape.
Photo by John Fitts

The Collins Company Complex, with its 19 acres and 13 buildings, is currently generating approximately $32,131 in yearly tax revenue, according to town officials. With re-development that potential is closer to $1.47 million annually, according to the presentation Wednesday (Available below).

The fate of the complex is something residents consistently ask about, officials said.

But re-development doesn’t come inexpensively. Construction costs would likely be close to $72 million, Pade said Wednesday.

But TIF gives the town a tool that could spur interest, officials said. Pade said the process of developing the plan would allow the town to bring in someone who can answer the unknowns, talk about the various options and help the town be proactive. Certainly, it’s worth exploring, Pade said.

“Are we willing to take steps to generate that revenue instead of waiting to see what happens?” Pade asked. “I think we need to have that discussion.”

Resident David Sinish praised the presentation and the idea.

“If all goes as projected, then Canton’s going to have the money to do the infrastructure costs we are lacking,” he said.

Former first Selectman Richard Barlow also spoke in favor of the idea and was the one who eventually made the non-binding motion to support the town’s efforts to establish a TIF District and master plan.

“The recent state legislation gives us a tremendous opportunity,” he said.

Barlow, however, was one who asked about the town setting benchmarks for potential projects. For example, if a developer were to start with housing at the complex, making sure they followed through with a commercial portion. (Many of the plans for the Collins Company have involved such a mixed-use approach)

“Can we can leverage that to ensure that we get all portions of the project done?” he asked.

Yoga Center of Collinsville owner Shawn Cole said it’s critical that the project be done in a way that keeps its character.

“We don’t want the wrong thing to be done because that will change the character of the town,” he said. “It’s exciting to see the town and all of us here take a proactive approach.”

Officials said performance-based measures can be included and Pade said that the law certainly gives the town many options. He added that the consultant can further assist with many concerns and questions.

The night was not without some other concerns as well. Larry Minichiello expressed concerns about “transferring potential future risk to the taxpayers” and advocating asking the site’s current owner to help fund the master plan process.

But, like so many in town, he also expressed dismay about the rapid deterioration of the complex.

“It’s really falling apart,” he said. “We can’t seem to get the owner to even invest to keep it up.”

Canton resident Ron Larson said he witnessed revitalization in North Easton, Mass. Made possible through a TIF process. He was one of several speakers who said they’ve seen the process work.

Bill Volovski, who has worked for the town of Plainville, which has utilized TIF, was another.

“I’m really glad to see that we’re exploring this as an option,” he said. “This is a really sophisticated economic tool.”

Gregory Boyko, a Canton resident who is part of a group looking to purchase and revitalize the complex, previously told Canton Compass that TIF sends a positive message to potential investors. Following the meeting Wednesday, he called the town’s actions a positive step.

“I think it will be attractive to us as developers,” he said.

During the meeting, Collinsville resident Alan Weiner said he understood some of the concerns but spoke strongly in favor of exploring the TIF process.

“It’s a hulking complex that has sat like that for decades and the private sector has continued to do nothing about it,” he said. “The economic benefits of a revitalized factory complex will come back to this community in spades.”

For a full-screen version of the town’s presentation, use the options on the bottom of the boxed area below or visit https://www.scribd.com/doc/296165914/TIF-Town-Meeting-1-20-16.

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