ENOSBURG FALLS — The village board of trustees and town selectboard came together Monday evening for discussions from a new tax incentive to boost local business to why the town and village have separate governments at all.
The village board and town selectboard meet together every few months now, a practice the boards began in 2017 at the urging of the Enosburg Initiative. Initiative members urged joint meetings for the sake of communication, and, consequently, productivity — basically, to pack snow from both sides into a larger snowball with more momentum.
Monday’s joint meeting followed the first public meeting on a downtown redevelopment plan using state funding for which the town and village boards decided to jointly apply at their first shared meeting almost exactly a year ago. That was a big snowball.
Soon the town selectboard will toss even more snow into the mix with a tax stabilization incentive voters approved at this year’s town meeting.
According to selectperson Polly Rico, the town’s draft tax stabilization incentive freezes a property’s tax assessment for 3-5 years on the condition that the property developer either a) invests a certain amount of money into the property, or b) anticipates the property will contribute a certain amount of money to Enosburgh’s economy, either through the property’s new value after renovation or through the business it will house.
The Town of Swanton recently used a similar incentive program in an agreement with Dave Fosgate, a local developer building an 18,000-square-foot warehouse to house the distribution service BMTM, which was displaced from the village’s Memorial Building in a downtown development deal. In that case, the town agreed to exempt Fosgate’s warehouse from municipal taxes for three years, starting in 2019, then to gradually increase taxation by 20 percent over four years, ending with the property taxed the same as any other after 2028.
Rico gave an example of how Enosburgh’s incentive might work: if a developer buys a property for $120,000 with a plan to invest $1.5 million into the property, the town will freeze the property’s assessed value at $120,000 for five years before reassessing the property.
Rico said the core of any incentive application is an applicant’s ability to boost economic development in town.
Resident Matt Minor asked how the selectboard plans to gauge an application. Minor said an applicant could very easily make “wild claims” on an application, and asked about the possible consequences for applicants who don’t follow through on their promises.
Rico seemed to agree with a suggestion from local developer Jim Cameron that developers submit annual reports with clear evidence of money spent on their property.
Cameron also suggested the selectboard expand the incentive for existing businesses as well and offer incentives for building improvements, like keeping up facades.
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