Milton Town Council will hold a special meeting at 4:30 p.m., Monday, July 24, at Milton library, to discuss ideas for what to do with funds to be raised by a special development district designation for the Granary at Draper Farm development.
Council will be brainstorming possible ways to spend up to $5 million in revenue that would be raised by the Granary’s special development district over the 20-year build out of the development.
A special development district is a special tax designation for residents of the Granary. The town would issue bonds to help cover infrastructure related to the development. The town would be paid back via a special tax that would be levied on residents of the Granary for a limited period of time.
Colby Cox, founder of Granary developer Convergence Communities, told council in June that the bonds would be issued in phases as the development is built. The Granary development has been planned to be built in 10 phases, with the first phase possibly shovel-ready by early 2024. Once that phase is underway, the first round of bonds will be issued; the money allocated to the town has to be spent within three years from the issuance of the bonds.
While the idea is to give the town a pot of money it can use for infrastructure projects, that money comes with strings attached. Any money spent outside the Granary development is limited to 33% coming from the special development district, but it could be paired with state or federal money on a large-scale project. Projects within the Granary could be 100% funded by money raised from the special development district.
According to a frequently asked questions sheet prepared for council in 2021, the purpose of the district is to finance public infrastructure improvements. The town issues bonds and the proceeds from selling those bonds fund the infrastructure improvements. The town’s full faith and credit is not on the line. Improvements that can be funded include storm drain systems, water and sewer, streets, sidewalks, lighting, parking, parks and recreation facilities, schools, transit facilities, and machinery and equipment.
The main benefits to the district include additional tax revenue on top of property taxes should the development be successful, providing a secure source of financing at the onset of development for the installation of public infrastructure and ensuring that the development pays its own way through instead of relying on the town to install infrastructure.
The special development district would be administered by an independent contractor, who would be paid out of the special taxes. The timeline from the town’s standpoint was first to create the special district, authority it was previously granted by a 2021 charter change, and then authorizing the creation of a special development district for the Granary property. From there, officials from Convergence and the town worked out how the financing scheme would work. Once that was done, Cox told council in June that $5 million would be available over the lifespan of the project.
On July 3, council first began discussions on determining a path forward on what to do with the money. Mayor John Collier said council was still trying to pick through the nuances of the process and how best to use the money. Collier suggested forming a working group to take some of the load off Town Manager Kristy Rogers, who is currently preparing the town budget, which will be presented at a separate July 24 meeting.
Councilwoman Randi Meredith wanted to use the July 3 meeting to brainstorm ideas, and listed off a few for consideration, including lighted bike trails within the Granary, improving crosswalk connections around town, enhanced safety measures at crosswalks, utilizing the land at the wastewater treatment plant once the plant is demolished, and outdoor exercise equipment along the Rails to Trails.
However, the rest of council was a bit more reluctant to share ideas. Collier said he wanted to hear input from town staff, such as public works and police staff, before coming up with ideas. Councilwoman Lee Revis-Plank said one idea is to look at a new administrative space with additional office space, particularly in light of the fact that the town is planning to hire more police officers, public works employees and administration officials to help service the Granary development.
Rogers said, “This is a time when we have a pot of funds and we need to plan well, because in the past we have not been so good at that. We need to make sure we have enough infrastructure and facilities to handle what our town is going to be.”
Rogers agreed with Revis-Plank that a new facility for town administration is worth considering, even with the town limited to 33% of the Granary funds. Upon Rogers’ suggestion, council eschewed the idea of an ad hoc committee and decided to hold a special workshop July 24 to brainstorm ideas and plan a path forward. That date was picked because council will be meeting that night at 6:30 p.m. to hold its first discussions of the fiscal year 2024 budget.
“It gives us a good start,” Collier said.