BRISTOL - The Bristol Development Authority discussed grants and tax abatements to attract development to Centre Square and downtown that aligns with the city’s goals at Monday night’s meeting.
A motion was passed to authorize the development authority staff and the mayor’s office to negotiate an up to 10-year tax abatement with possible businesses.
Mayor Ken Cockayne said the city’s standard tax abatement is seven years, however, according to a state statute it can provide tax abatements for up to 10 years.
“It leaves the luxury when we are negotiating contracts to offer an additional three years as part of the negotiating contract,” Cockayne said. “I think that’s a great tool to use. Instead of giving money, we give abatements.”
The abatements will be handled on a case-by-case basis, explained Justin Malley, executive director of the development authority.
“On a case-by-case basis we will bring it to you all [the development authority]. I will have a seven-year option, a 10-year option and what the developer and business does,” Malley said.
Grant provisions of three grants for businesses in the city’s enterprise zone, which is between North and South Street and includes Centre Square and downtown, were also approved.
David Preleski, city councilor and development authority member, said the grants are based on a survey from “Bristol residents.” They aim to identify existing businesses who may need financial assistance to grow, or to attract businesses from out of town.
“It’s a grant program for identified business industries that residents want to see downtown. It just happens that residents want to see restaurants downtown,” Preleski said.
Malley said, “People want interesting dining options” but “giving grants out to restaurant is risky” because “it’s a volatile industry.” He added it is unimportant what restaurant is developed, because the city will know it has “a place that is turn-key that will hopefully be marketable to restaurants.”
Cockayne added, “Even if a restaurant folds up and leaves in two years, the place is built-out. So the money is not lost, it’s invested in the property.”
The first grant is for a property owner to purchase and install restaurant equipment in an establishment of at least 1,800 square feet for seven years. The grant amount is based on the location’s square footage and project value without exceeding $150,000.
The second is a retail or service grant for a business owner or tenant to make building improvements, but not for items that can be removed. The grant amount is based on square footage of location and project value without exceeding $50,000.
The third is an employment grant for a business owner or tenant to create or transfer at least 20 full-time employment positions earning at least 200 percent of the state’s minimum wage. Grantees receive $1,000 for each full-time position of at least 20 employees and no more than 100.
“We do a 10-year claw-back provision. The way it works is if a business were to accept money and then leave within six years, they have to pay back 100 percent of the grant and then it’s a sliding scale after six years,” Malley added.
A committee will be created for the grants and incentives with a member of the Board of Finance. The development board is looking to designate some of the grants for Centre Square and downtown.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 860-973-5088.