Port of Manchester Commissioners were united Monday in their
not to impose a tax on port property owners through the
industrial development district mechanism.
The law allows a tax increase of up to 45 cents per $1,000 of
assessed property value without a vote of the public. It’s a law
that applies only to port dsitricts, with the stated purpose being
acquisition of “marginal” land to spur economic development.
In Manchester’s case, the land they wanted to acquire was
neither marginal not targeted for industrial development. The idea
was to buy one of the commercial properties for sale in the town to
preserve it for future community use. Port commissioners, in
accordance with their parks & recreation plan, would have
relied on public guidance and participation in future development
of the property, possibly as a community center.
The idea of acquiring land is not off the table, but the port is
not reconsidering their original idea of seeking a levy lid lift,
among other options. They also need to pay off debt related to
parking improvements now under way. Sooner or later, commissioners
say, they’ll need to raise cash for that and meet the rising cost
of maintaining the facilities they have, including the marina and
Although two of the commissioners, Steve Pedersen and Daniel
Fallstrom, said loud and clear that they favor buying property soon
to preserve it for future generations while real estate prices are
low, they opted not to go the IDD route, which would have allowed
them to act quickly. Although earlier discussions with community
groups, including the port’s advisory committee, showed many people
in favor of the land purchase, those who were opposed to the
no-vote tax showed up in force at the port’s August meeting.
The commissioners pushed the matter off for a month to gather
more public comment. Commissioner Jim Strode said he heard from
many people on both sides of the issue. Although he didn’t break it
down scientifically, he said the split in community opinion showed
the port needed to do a better job of bringing everyone into the
discussion. Fallstrom said those he’s heard from are about 50/50
pro and con. Pedersen said those against the proposal seem to
outweigh those for it by a small margin.
Here on this blog, we took an unscientific poll listing three
reasons people might favor the IDD and three reasons they might be
opposed. We allowed people to vote up to three times. Since only 22
people (out of more than 3,000 voters) participated, the results
can hardly be considered representative. We also did not screen to
make sure all participants were actually Manchester residents. But
for what it’s worth:
Should the Port of Manchester form a temporary taxing district
to buy land for a future community center?
* No, they shouldn’t raise property taxes without a vote of the
people. (55.0%, 12 Votes)
* Yes, the port should act now before property prices go up.
(18.0%, 4 Votes)
* No, now is not the time to raise people’s taxes. (18.0%, 4
* Yes, Manchester needs an expanded community center. (14.0%, 3
* Yes, the port should secure the property against commercial
development. (9.0%, 2 Votes)
* No, the port should look at other priorities. (9.0%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 22