Manchester Talked, Port Listened

Port of Manchester Commissioners were united Monday in their decision 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 waterfront park.

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 Votes)
* Yes, Manchester needs an expanded community center. (14.0%, 3 Votes)
* 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Enter the word yellow here: