Review the Details Council Took Pause to Look at TIF Contract

Several Chelsea City Councillors had asked for a pause in the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) agreement this month in order to completely review the details of a state-reviewed contract between the Housing Authority, a private developer and the City.

The TIF would allow the Corcoran Companies and the Chelsea Housing Authority to re-develop the Innes Apartments into a mixed-income community with new public housing units and new market rate units – along with parking and some retail portions. The TIF has been said for some time to be the most critical piece left to getting the deal complete.

The terms of the 15-year TIF include an 80 percent reduction in new value the first five years, 6 percent the second five years and 50 percent for the final five years.

The TIF agreement has been public for many months, with the most important financial details becoming public last summer. However, when brought before the Council earlier this month, there were unexpected questions from many in the Council.

Instead of moving it to a vote, it was moved to Committee.

Some objected, but at that Committee of the Whole meeting on Dec. 16, councillors said they wanted a pause to review the contract terms that had just been delivered to them.

“Since March, we’ve been negotiating the TIF and plan with the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD),” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “The terms were disclosed during the Smart Growth District presentation. The detailed documents weren’t presented until recently because it took awhile to negotiate and it had to go to DHCD before it could come to the Council. That just took a long time.”

Those negotiations included many minor details that fulfilled legal obligations, he said, such as how the agreement would be administered and how the apartments would be done.

“The financial terms are the most significant thing, but they are only one paragraph in the document,” he said. “DHCD has much greater concerns about how it will be administrated. Those details took time.”

Council President Damali Vidot said the Council shouldn’t have been handed the contract in short order before being expected to take such a major vote.

“It’s clear that the Council wants this project to happen and no one has a problem with that,” she said. “The problem I have is you drop a 100-page document at a Council meeting and expect a vote…No one is talking to us about what this other stuff is and we’re expected to vote on it. The Council deserves a little bit more respect and ore information up front. It starts at the top.”

Some of the details in the contract that were not previously known include the City’s dedication of about $5 million in state MassWorks grants to help with infrastructure like new drainage, new sewers and new roadways. Such a precedent exists already with the work done on Everett Avenue and around the One North developments. Some of those state grants, however, have not yet been received and there is hope they would come this summer.

The City Council was expected to vote on the TIF agreement Monday night at its last regular meeting of 2019, which came beyond Record deadlines.

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