Wiscasset Selectmen’s Chair Sarah Whitfield on Nov. 2 called the planned housing at the former Wiscasset Primary School exciting news. And Selectman Terry Heller said she looked forward to a lot of people being in the Nov. 16, Zoom public hearing, “hopefully in support of this great project that we need in our community.”
Selectmen and Frederick Mielke from Optimus Senior Living – which has a memo of understanding with the property’s owner JSJ Holdings to turn the site into senior housing – praised Town Manager Dennis Simmons’ recent press release. “Good job, Dennis,” Mielke said. Simmons responded with a thumbs up. And that was the extent of talk about the project in the board’s Nov. 2 Zoom meeting.
The Nov. 16 Zoom hearing is on the proposed Optimus Senior Living Municipal Development and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. According to the proposal the town provided Nov. 2 at Wiscasset Newspaper’s request, and Simmons’ email responses to questions Nov 4, the project would cost a projected $20 million, be developed by Optimus and owned by Wiscasset Senior Living; the town would create the TIF district on the 11.6-acre, ex-school property “to facilitate and promote the re-development of 146 Gardiner Road, to be known as Optimus Senior Living into (a) senior living project.” The town and the owner would have a credit enhancement agreement (CEA) that, over five years, would return to the owner less and less of the increase in the property’s assessed value due to the redevelopment.
The developer proposes 100 units of senior living, including independent living, assisted living and memory care units. “The ... project meets a critical need for variable living options for seniors in the Town, will support further economic, community, and workforce development and contribute to the productive reuse of the property,” the proposal states.
Simmons explained, “We are capturing the entire increase in assessed value each year, but the CEA provides that we return 100% in the first year, 80% in the second and so forth until year 6 when the town will retain 100% of the assessed value.”
The proposal states the plan will “improve the town’s economy and increase senior living opportunities and the Town’s ability to stand out in a competitive marketplace as a dynamic place in which to grow a business. All taxable real property value captured in the District will be added to the general tax rolls at the end of the TIF term.”
The town never gets back the CEA payments, but after the CEA runs out, nothing else is captured and the town gets all the taxes each year on the property like it does for other properties, Simmons confirmed.
Asked how the proposal came about, Simmons said Optimus came to the town with the proposal for a TIF and CEA. “Their proposal was very straightforward, they would be able to develop the project with a five-year CEA. (Town counsel) Shana Mueller of Bernstein Shur prepared the documents, with my assistance. The Selectboard met in executive session with Shana and Optimus a couple of times to review the proposal and the draft documents.”
The hearing is at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83625653734?pwd=M1k5K1lwNnhlakhvR0tHQlJHQVArQT09
The meeting ID is 836 2565 3734 and the passcode is 911529
Also Nov. 2, selectmen nodded Wiscasset Farmers Market’s request to be on town property near the park and ride, Friday mornings next June to October; a liquor license renewal for In A Silent Way, 51B Water Street; a business license for Midcoast Provisions, 65 Gardiner Road; and Wiscasset Holiday Marketfest’s vendor permit. The board tentatively set a 6 p.m. Nov. 30 meeting with the budget committee.