It is highly likely that the properties on Chestnut and Franklin Streets (the former Al’s Automotive) will be developed with or without TIF. There is nothing about a TIF plan that incentivizes a developer. There is no concrete evidence that, in the long run, TIF will bring additional development to the defined district. And clearly TIF does nothing to create improvements to Lincoln Street or the Epping Road industrial area. So, what specifically does TIF do?
The TIF plan, in its draft form, identifies downtown projects that would result from the diversion of taxes generated by the incremental increase in the tax base for properties within the defined TIF district. These monies would not be available to the general fund for what is likely to be a ten year period the TIF plan is in effect. Furthermore, the identified projects within the TIF plan are the very same beautification projects that voters overwhelmingly opposed twice as warrant articles. And, by the way, what the heck is “traffic calming”? TIF proponents identify safety of pedestrians and bicyclists as an issue to be addressed in the plan. We already have an abundance of crosswalks, yet pedestrians are seen jaywalking in clear violation of a town ordinance. Are the proponents proposing eliminating diagonal parking to provide a bicycle lane? Would this then lead to a parking garage, a long sought after project by those proposing TIF?
Look, there is work to be done downtown just as there is throughout Exeter. It is of no higher priority that repairing our roads, bridges and other infrastructure. In the past the Budget Committee and Board of Selectmen have deferred sidewalk repairs. We do not need a TIF plan to get sidewalks repaired. We just need a modest amount of money in the budget to effect repairs over a set number of years. If pedestrian safety is an issue, start by enforcing the ordinance against jaywalking. If bicyclists must traverse downtown they can walk their bike on the sidewalk until clear of the diagonal parking area.
Finally keep in mind as the process goes forward to placing a TIF plan on the warrants. There will be nothing in the town budget to address the needed repairs in the downtown area. Therefore it is important for the TIF subcommittee to weigh the likelihood of passage of a warrant by conducting open meetings early in the budgeting process. I believe they have a high hurdle to clear with voters.