Should the Port of Manchester form an industrial development district to buy land for a future community center? Read the post, then take the poll on the homepage of this blog.
Port of Manchester to Revisit IDD Tax Monday
When: 6 p.m.
Where: Manchester Library
Revenue would be used for land acquisition and debt service.
By Chris Henry
Port of Manchester Commissioners will vote Monday on whether to form an industrial development district, a taxing district affecting property owners within port boundaries. Revenue from the IDD would fund the purchase of a downtown Manchester property that could some day be developed as a community center.
The IDD, which does not require a public vote, would allow the port to move quickly on the purchase while property prices remain low, said Alan Fletcher, contract administrator for the port.
Strong resistance to the new taxing district at the port’s Aug. 10 meeting led the board to defer the vote and leave the record open for a month. Some who testified supported the IDD, but opponents loudly protested the tax increase and called for at least an advisory vote on the matter.
Under the IDD the port could collect up to 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in addition to the current levy (just more than 14 cents per $1,000 for 2009) for up to six years. Port commissioners estimate they would need to collect 20 to 25 cents per $1,000 to purchase the land.
Fletcher calculates the proposed tax would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $57.50 per year. The IDD tax is temporary and would expire at the end of the six years.
The proposed community center on the site eyed for purchase is part of the port’s parks and recreation plan, developed with community input. The center would be developed in the future in partnership with civic groups and would likely include an expanded library with space for community activities.
A portion of the IDD revenue would go to retire debt related to expanded parking at the port’s marina.
Port commissioners Steve Pedersen and Daniel Fallstrom, who were elected in 2008, expressed disapproval during their campaigns for the Port of Bremerton’s IDD, formed in 2006 to pay for the new Bremerton Marina. That IDD, which was not well publicized, became a political albatross for the Port of Bremerton.
Fallstrom in 2008 said Port of Bremerton residents should have had a say about the new tax that was set at the full amount allowed by law and in many cases more than doubled individual property owners’ payments to the port. Asked why he did not support an advisory vote for the Port of Manchester’s IDD, Fallstrom said, “It’s too late to do that this year, and cost for a special election would be $15,000, which the port can’t afford.”
Fallstrom added that Manchester’s IDD would not be as costly to property owners.
Residents who favor the community center have told the board they want to secure land for future generations rather than seeing it lost to development, Fallstrom said.
“What we’re trying to do is we have a great opportunity here to get things for the future generations at a great price,” he said.
Fallstrom would not say how he will vote on Monday.
“This is one of these hard decisions elected officials need to make. We’ll just wait ’til Monday and see what the three of us decide,” he said.
Pedersen said the board made extra efforts to seek residents’ opinions on the port’s future in part because of Bremerton’s debacle. He was a proponent of the recently formed port advisory committee whose input led the board to float the IDD. Responses from residents during and after the public hearing have given him pause.
“It’s really made me step back and take a good hard look at the authority and power to tax people, and I take that very seriously,” said Pedersen. “Just because an IDD is a tool, it doesn’t mean you take it out of the tool box and use it.”
Long-time commissioner Jim Strode, who is running unopposed in the upcoming November election, said at the meeting in August, “If I go down in flames for any decision we have to make, I’m OK with that.”
Here’s a map of the Port of Manchester: