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Voters tell prospective developers to check out Hopkinton

  • Outgoing select board member Steve Lux Jr., a lifelong resident of Hopkinton, was recognized for his service at the town's annual meeting on Saturday, March 17, 2018. —Alyssa Dandrea

  • Hopkinton voter Erick Leadbeater asks a question of the select board during discussion of the economic development warrant articles. Alyssa Dandrea / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hopkinton voters did not waiver Saturday in their decision to join the competitive market and “raise the appetite” of prospective developers who may want to start anew or expand an existing business in town.

Voters overwhelmingly passed five separate warrant articles that aim to provide new incentives for economic development and that, in the long-term, could increase the town’s tax base and lower the burden on individual property owners. By giving the town the go-ahead to establish two tax increment finance (TIF) districts, elected officials will now be able to market two sites in existing commercial areas: one near Exit 6 off Interstate 89 and the second at the intersection of Routes 202/9 and Maple Street.

“If we had done this 10 years ago, we might be seeing some of this revenue now,” said Robert Gerseny, a member of the select board. “The upward pressure on the tax rate is not going to go away.”

Historically, voter sentiment has been against economic development in the small rural community, but old feelings seemed to be set aside Saturday as many realized the need to act.

“The added $1.2 million in taxes does in fact have me drooling,” Arnold Coda, a Hopkinton voter, said of one hypothetical development opportunity in a newly-created TIF district. “But my question at the bottom of this is with respect to every one of these articles: Do you have a time projection?”

Simply put, “No,” Gerseny said, noting that it could be as few as six years, 10 years or more until Hopkinton sees the benefits of Saturday’s votes.

“Well, I’ll be pushing up daisies at that point so maybe you want to put a cemetery in,” Coda joked, while expressing his support for the efforts by the town to attract developers.

In addition to establishing two TIF districts, voters backed town officials in their hopes to swap land – a portion of a 96-acre lot abutting Mast Yard Forest – with the state in exchange for receiving state-owned land near the intersection of Maple Street and Routes 202/9. Voters spoke about the importance of the conservation land which they hoped the state would protect in a swap. The select board assured residents that their sentiments would be shared with state officials during the negotiation process.

Voters also approved $30,000 to be used toward future economic development projects in the town.

The economic development articles generated the most discussion at Saturday’s annual town meeting after the budget sailed through unscathed. Voters passed a $7.1 million operating budget, which is up $133,319 over the 2017 approved budget. The tax rate will increase 28 cents, which is about $56 on a $200,000 home. The select board applied $338,000 in surplus to lessen the tax impact.

A total of $623,000 was added to 11 previously established capital reserve funds, including for highway, police, fire and transfer station vehicles and equipment. The town also approved the creation of a new capital reserve fund for recreational facilities and set aside $10,000 in the fund.

The only petition article on the warrant received majority support. In voting “yes,” the town expressed support to Gov. Chris Sununu to join its neighboring states in studying the feasibility of developing offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)