Bow to consider creating TIF district

  • An outline of where the Bow TIF district would be should the town adopt a proposal to establish a district in the Bow junction area. Caitlin Andrews—Courtesy town of Bow

Monitor staff
Monday, January 08, 2018

After decades of trying to play ball with Concord to get water to the Bow interstates 93 and 89 junction, the town of Bow is hoping to have businesses pay for a water main instead.

The select board is set to consider a proposed warrant article Tuesday night that would create a tax increment finance district in the Bow junction region. If board members like the idea, they could set a future date for a public hearing.

Officials have said the district could help pay for much-needed improvements to the area that would encourage economic development and hopefully offset the flagging valuation of Merrimack Station.

Project No. 1 would be extending a water line along Grandview Road from the area of South Street to Vaughn Road, something Bow has been hoping for since the 1970s.

The water at the junction is laced with radium, radon, arsenic, uranium and industrial solvents, much of which comes from past land use, according to Department of Environmental Services documents. Additionally, the groundwater is acidic and corrosive, which can cause heavy metals to dissolve and contaminate the water supply.

Bow has tried for years to get Concord to agree to extend their water infrastructure and has offered to pay for the construction costs. But Concord city councilors have said extending water to Bow could threaten the city’s future tax base and economic development.

While Bow community development director Matt Taylor said the town hasn’t completely given up hope of working with Concord to extend their water main, having a TIF district would give the town an alternative source of funding should the municipalities never reach a deal.

“These are two parallel tracks,” Taylor said, “If the town and the city didn’t come to terms, this would be an alterative plan.”

The second project would be to relocate the southbound ramps for Interstate 89’s Exit 1 and build a new town road to accommodate development to the south.

Such projects are not cheap – the water main is expected to run $4.3 million, and the new road and ramp about $2.5 million, according to town estimates – but Taylor said a TIF district would help offset the cost.

All of that hinges on businesses being interested in coming to Bow in the first place.

There are three tentative projects looking at the Bow junction area that could generate up to $1.2 million in tax revenue, according to town documents.

The most defined is a proposal from Concord General Mutual Insurance Co. to expand and relocate its offices to South Street in Bow. The company owns three parcels of land on the road, the largest being 18 acres, but company officials wrote in a Dec. 21 letter to Taylor that the lack of public water in the region is a challenge to the firm’s goals.

“The ability to have public water at the site would make the decision process that much easier for us,” wrote Linda Day, CEO of Concord General Mutual. “We would like to have a new building completed in approximately 5 years.”

The other two projects are more nebulous. Bow has been marketing a piece of land off Dow Road as a potential distribution center site for years, but Taylor said the cost of bringing water to the land without public utilities is prohibitive for potential buyers.

The third project is even more conceptual. Taylor said the Colby family has been discussing selling its property off I-89’s Exit 1, which is located in the town’s mixed-use zoning area, and turning it into a mixed-use development. That location would also need public water improvements for the project to be viable, Taylor said.

Those projects wouldn’t come close to filling the revenue gap left by Merrimack Station, the largest taxpayer in Bow. Eversource announced the planned sale of the plant in November with a price tag of $75 million, almost half the amount at which Bow valued the plant in 2012 and 2013 ($159 million), but slightly more than what Eversource valued the plant at during the same time frame ($68 million).

Bow adjusted its valuation of the plant to match its sales price, but whether Bow will have to refund Eversource for the difference in valuation remains to be seen. A Supreme Court ruling on the issue is pending.

In addition to creating a TIF district, approving the warrant article would also mean the creation of a district advisory board, mostly made up of abutters.

The select board meeting starts at 6 p.m.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)