Local News

Mendon ponders economic development moves

By Julia Purdy

MENDON—The recently formed Mendon Economic Development Committee (MEDC) aims to improve Mendon’s economic health, looking ahead to the town-wide reassessment scheduled for 2020. The group took another step toward that goal Tuesday, Feb. 20, by discussing a tax stabilization measure and reviewing draft survey questions for Mendon businesses.

Both items have been under discussion in past meetings. It was felt that a survey would be useful to gather the experiences and suggestions of Mendon businesses on ways to improve business, particularly along the Route 4 commercial district.

Chair Dick Wilcox noted that Mendon’s commercial base has “eroded,” which will become clear when the reappraisal is completed in 2020 and Mendon emerges as primarily residential, he said.

Using Brandon’s tax stabilization policy as a model, the group considered the nuts and bolts of such a policy. All agreed that the purpose would be to encourage new investment and improvements to businesses and industry by offering an incentive in the form of keeping the assessed value of a property level for a certain period of time.

The group expressed general agreement with the concept but noted the disadvantage in delayed tax revenue. That seemed to be the most obvious drawback but other problems were raised.

One issue was what type and scope of improvements would qualify; eligibility for tax stabilization might be tied to permits, it was suggested. The potential for abuse exists as well, said Mark Latzky of Virtual Solutions and Cord Jones of People’s United Insurance. Jones asked how the town would protect itself from a business that grieved its assessment in order to get the stabilization, for instance. Latzky said the policy presumes the investor will stay in town beyond the stabilization period.

Latzky and Brittany Charles of Mendon Mountain Orchards wondered how the policy would sit with existing business and if new businesses attracted by stabilization would compete with existing ones.

Fred Bagley said he didn’t see a major downside and that stabilization would send a message that Mendon is business-friendly, but he also wanted to know why residential property was excluded. Jones noted that the Brandon policy applies to the municipal tax portion only, and that the business would still be liable for the education tax and the fire district tax.

Delving deeper, Jones noted the time and labor commitment to administering the policy and asked, “Is all this work worth what we’re giving away?”

The group consensus was to accept the concept of tax stabilization and continue to work through these and other issues. Brandon’s head of economic development will be invited to address MEDC on the topic in the near future.

The meeting then turned to the draft business survey. The 14-question paper survey attempts to take the temperature of the commercial climate in Mendon by asking business owners to share their wish lists and input on conditions that affect them both positively and negatively, and to suggest changes. One question asks if the business owner is aware of support already in place such as efforts to promote the Rutland region and Mendon’s status as a “hub zone” for federal contracts.

MEDC committee members will deliver the surveys in person to both current and former Mendon businesses.

MEDC meets once a month and meetings are open to the public. New members are welcome. The next night it March 27 at 5:30, at the town office on Rte. 4.

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