Edgecomb selectmen believe they may have found a way to keep the town out of a possible legal dispute between developer Roger Bintliff and the Bank of Maine.
The board decided to ask a court who they should send tens of thousands of dollars a year in tax incentive payments to: Bintliff or the bank.
The payments were set up years ago when Bintliff's company, Edgecomb Development, was going to pay for some utilities on Davis Island. The payments are linked to a TIF (a tax-increment financing) deal.
When Bintliff had loans with the bank, he agreed the town could pay the bank instead of paying him. But earlier this year Bintliff said the town should switch to paying him, because he no longer owes the bank any money.
Selectmen later said the bank countered that it should keep getting the payments. Bintliff, of Dresden, has said he will hold Edgecomb liable for any payments that go to the bank.
The town's attorney in the matter, John Cunningham, has mentioned a court opinion as an option, selectmen said. The board's vote to have Cunningham file the request was unanimous. It will cost the town between $1,500 and $1,800, Selectmen's Chairman Jessica Chubbuck said.
Selectmen previously planned to get Cunningham's written opinion about the payments, but they now believe a court opinion would give the town better standing for whatever it does with the payments.
“To me, it's money well spent to not be put in the middle of a potential court battle,” Chubbuck said. “The town just wants to stay out of it. We don't want to be involved.”
The rest of the board concurred. “The truth of the matter is, it's not our dispute. It's their dispute,” Selectman Jack Sarmanian said.
Resident Jarryl Larson, who has often addressed the board on TIF matters, told selectmen they're making the right move for the town.
Bintliff thinks they are, too. “I feel that's prudent on their part,” he said in an interview December 4.
“It will only help clarify things,” he said. “And I welcome the clarification.”
Bank of Maine officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The town might be able to tap TIF funds for the cost of seeking the court opinion, Selectman Stuart Smith said.
Susan Johns can be reached at 207-844-4633 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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