In order to better evaluate tax incentive financing (TIF) requests, Shelburne has approved a set of local Economic Development Program Guidelines.

Shelburne has received a few TIF applications in the last 10 years and reviewed them on a case-by-case basis. The most recent TIF application, approved this past spring, was for redevelopment of the Sweetheart Tea House, once a vibrant stop along the Mowhawk Trail that has been vacant for about 20 years. It was this application that got the committee thinking about how it evaluates TIF applications.

“Understanding TIFs was complicated and we needed help,” said Finance Committee member and former Selectman John Payne. “We had a fully staffed Finance Committee with a nice complement of people to take on this challenge.”

The Finance Committee set out to develop a policy in order to assess future TIFs on equal footing.

Committee members took three important steps in their process:
• Examine TIFs that had been approved by the town
• Look at other area towns to see what kind of TIFs they were approving, and what guidelines, if any, they had developed
• Meet with Deborah Boronski with the Economic Development Incentive Program within the Massachusetts Office of Business Development for the Shelburne area to learn about the government program, which also approves all local TIFs

The policy written by the finance committee was approved by the Select Board earlier this summer.

The guidelines, available on the town’s website, outline key criteria for all TIF considerations. The guidelines identify three economic target areas that are priorities for development, set the property tax break period at between five and 15 years, cite seven economic development goals that should be considered by projects interested in a TIF, and identify the potential tax reduction for a project based on the number of jobs created.

The guidelines also set forth a detailed application and approval process, including the creation of a TIF Evaluation Committee. The committee would make recommendations to the Select Board and Town Meeting.

“It was absolutely essential to do this,” Payne said. “There is a benefit of having a structure like this set up when it comes to negotiating.”

The policy recommends periodic reevaluation of the guidelines and adjusting them to any new considerations or town needs. The Finance Committee is currently tasked with determining whether the economic needs of the developer should be taken into consideration.

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