Port of Manchester kills plans for IDD

The Port of Manchester commissioners on Monday night voted to take no action on a resolution that would have created an Industrial Development District (IDD) for the purpose of buying property adjacent to the Manchester Library.

Without doing so definitively, the move effectively kills the measure.

“At this point,” said Port Administrator Alan Fletcher, “if the resolution was brought up again, it would have to start all over again and be reintroduced. For all intents and purposes, this kills it — for now, anyway.

The IDD, had the commissioners approved it, would not have required a vote of the district residents, whose property taxes would have been raised around 19 to 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, according to preliminary estimates.

The goal would have been to acquire a $695,000 parcel in downtown Manchester that would reportedly have been used to enlarge the library, construct a community center or both.

“There are currently 15 commercial properties in Manchester, of which three are for sale,” said Commissioner Steve Pedersen. “If history is any guide, the current down market will eventually turn around and these properties will be developed — and not necessarily in the public interest.”

Nonetheless, Pedersen joined with the other two commissioners to set aside the measure.

“I personally believe that purchasing property such as this is in the interest of future generations and is the right thing to do,” he said. “But this issue is bigger than three commissioners.”

The port commissioners had voted during their regular meeting in July to pay $2,000 to have the property appraised and scheduled a public hearing on the IDD question for Aug. 10.

At that meeting, a number of community members expressed heated opposition to the idea — especially since it involved raising taxes without a public vote.

“Ports are mandated to create economic development,” said Port President Jim Strode, “and the port has the power to tax without a public vote.

“I don’t know if I agree with that 100 percent,” he said, “but ports have that power.”

Yet Strode, too, agreed with the decision to table the resolution.

“I think the port needs to do a better job of educating its constituents about this issue,” he said. “There’s no urgency to take action at this time. It’s not like there’s a fire sale for that property.”

Commissioner Dan Fallstrom, too, argued the need for more public input.

“We need the approval of not just a small group of people but the entire Manchester community to take a step like this,” he said. “It can wait until we get more input from the public.”

Following the vote, Manchester resident Bob Lamb applauded the decision.

“I know your approach to letting everyone get a shot at this is tough for you,” he said. “I know what you went through for those of us who would vote one way or another. Thank you.”

In other port action:

• The commissioners agreed to hear a report next month on the possibility of generating additional revenue by charging for boat launches.

According to a study conducted by the Manchester Advisory Committee, a fee of $5 per launch — still modest compared to those charged at other marinas — would generate $15,000 or more annually for the port.

• Pederson informed the board the Port of New York City was making available pieces of rubble from the World Trade Center buildings destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and suggested the port might consider requesting a piece to be added to the VFW’s memorial garden in Manchester.

“I’m not necessarily saying we should do this,” he said. “It’s just something that’s out there we might want to consider.”

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