Restaurant to reopen next month; creating a new downtown TIF district in the works
FARMINGTON - Plans to reopen a restaurant next month are moving forward after selectmen approved a new liquor license for the Lotus Blossom Restaurant.
The former Fortune Fountain restaurant was closed in early May by the state's health department after several food safety violations were found.
The new owner-manager, Ricky Lam of Blossom Chinese Restaurant, Inc., was an original partner who helped open the restaurant 27 years ago on Wilton Road, but wasn't involved with it in the years following. He told selectmen that he hopes to reopen the newly renovated restaurant on Aug. 15, if everything goes according to schedule. Building contractors are "completely renovating the interior, especially the kitchen," Lam said.
Selectman Dennis Pike wished Lam "the best of luck" and the board voted 4-0 to approve the liquor license. Selectman Drew Hufnagel did not attend the meeting.
In other matters, selectmen unanimously approved appointing a consultant to help create a tax increment financing (TIF) district for the revitalization of the downtown area. Discussion began two meetings ago but selectmen Hufnagel and Ryan Morgan wanted more time to research TIFs in the state and how it could be applied towards redevelopment of the downtown area.
Proposed is to designate a downtown district for TIF entitlement, develop data relative for the creation of a TIF district and a work plan towards an overall downtown redevelopment. Once a plan is established, the town can apply for a Downtown TIF from the state.
A TIF sets aside a portion of new taxable revenue and dedicates those funds, in this case, towards a redevelopment plan. A percentage of the new investment "captured" for the downtown programs and are sheltered from the state's formula for revenue sharing, education funding and county tax. Example TIF-funded projects could be improving downtown infrastructure, such as sidewalks or upgrading street lights; tourism or business promotion or property restoration through a loan program. All of the particulars, from how much new tax revenue would be set aside to how long the TIF district exists, can be determined by the designers of the TIF.
John Holden of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group will work with town officials, members of the Farmington Downtown Association and the Greater Franklin Development Corporation to draft the town's redevelopment program, a requirement for the establishment of the TIF district. According to the contract agreement, Holden will receive a fee of $9,850 to complete the process of designing a plan to town official approval of the plan. That process is expected to take up to four months.
Once the plan is agreed upon by selectmen, public meetings on the proposed TIF district would be held before the finalized TIF application is sent to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development for its review. Holden is to receive a flat fee of $9,500 for completing the town's application process.
At Tuesday's meeting, the board was in unanimous agreement to pursue establishing a TIF district, but Hufnagel, via a phone call, and Morgan asked about the possibility of expanding the designated downtown TIF district to include the West Farmington area.
Holden said he will look into expanding the TIF district so the area across Center Bridge can benefit from TIF revitalization funding.