Deadline approaches for China TIF requests

by Mary Grow

The deadline for China organizations to apply for 2023-24 money from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund is Dec. 31, 2022.

That’s a Saturday, a TIF Committee member observed as the Nov. 14 meeting wound down. No problem, Town Manager Rebecca Hapgood replied; it’s one of the two Saturdays each month, the first and the last, that the town office is open, from 8 to 11 a.m.

Committee members scheduled their next meeting for Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. They will review applications and begin matching requests with the limits set in China’s TIF document and with available funds.

At the Nov. 14 meeting, they discussed two ongoing projects, fixing erosion problems at the boat landing in South China and the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF), and considered recommending a new one, assistance with replacing failing shoreland septic systems.

The current proposal for the boat landing is to spend TIF money to control run-off into China Lake, to protect the lake’s water quality. Hapgood and committee members discussed results of the first step, a survey of the town-owned property that shows it is only 25 feet wide.

The next step is to develop an erosion control plan. Suggestions included adding culverts and check dams, diverting water onto neighboring wooded properties (by arrangement with landowners), installing pervious paving and other measures.

The proposal that was adopted for immediate action was to apply to the National Guard for an engineer’s study and plan, followed by the Guard doing the work to implement it.

The related issue was whether the 25-foot strip should continue to be a boat landing, either open to everyone or limited to hand-carried craft like canoes and kayaks.

The consensus was to leave it as a landing open to everyone, perhaps with designated parking spots along the side, perhaps with arrangements to park elsewhere in South China Village. Considerations included frequent use – committee member Michael “Mickey” Wing said he often saw three or four trucks parked there – and the need for emergency access for fire departments and other agencies, like the warden service.

The revolving loan fund, intended to help business locate or expand in China, has been used once so far, and the borrower has defaulted. Suggestions included managing it better, perhaps with outside help; eliminating it; or turning it into a grant fund.

“Food for thought,” committee chairman Brent Chesley summarized the inconclusive discussion.

Chesley proposed recommending a grant or loan fund to help replace failing septic systems in the shoreland, as a contribution to water quality. Several other committee members liked the idea, though no action was taken.

Chesley said he had been disabused of the idea that everyone owning waterfront property is wealthy. Some residents, he said, inherited their homes and are trying to maintain them, and pay lakefront taxes, on limited incomes.

Wing told the group that the current cost of a new septic system ranges from about $6,500 to about $16,000.

Any change in use of TIF funds, deleting or amending a program or adding a new one, would require a recommendation from the committee to the select board; the select board’s agreement to present the change to town voters; voters’ approval; and approval by the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

For the 2023-24 TIF budget, Hapgood said she has one application, from the China Four Seasons Club for work on recreational trails.

Stephen Greene, president of the China Lake Association, promised his application would be in by the Dec. 31 deadline. He intends to seek funds to start building an account for an expensive alum treatment in the north end of China Lake’s east basin. The alum would seal off phosphorus-laden bottom sediments to limit internal phosphorus loading in the lake.

Scott Pierz, executive director of the China Region Lakes Alliance, also plans to apply. He pointed out that costs of CRLA programs are increasing. “Operations are a function of money,” he concluded.


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