Lee Town Meeting OKs tax incentive for $9M manufacturing project
LEE -- The Annual Town Meeting has given the green light that will allow a start-up company to invest $9 million creating dozens of jobs at the Lee Corporate Center on Route 102.
Town meeting representatives Thursday night granted a Tax Increment Finance agreement to Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing. The TIF will affect any new property taxes generated by BSM over a 15-year period, starting in fiscal year 2016, according to town officials.
Board of Assessors Chairman Dayton DeLorme said 100 percent of the new taxes will be forgiven in the first two years of the TIF, gradually decreasing by five or 10 percent increments, until the full tax bill is due after the 15th year.
BSM, a newly incorporated bio-pharmaceutical company, expects to buy the center for $1 million from the Lee Community Development Corp. Both parties expect to close the deal in June.
"We have the funding in place and we’re ready to go," said BSM principal Shawn Kinney of Lenox
The new owners would still be responsible for paying the full tax bill on the current assessed value of the 15-acre site, which for fiscal 2014 is almost $31,000.
Kinney says his firm would need another 18 months after the sale -- at a cost of $8 million -- to begin operations, initially using up to 20,000 square feet of the 116,000-square-foot building. The new ownership won’t displace the current tenants because they will provide rent to help offset the cost of the project.
BSM’s promise of 60, well-paying jobs over a five-year period was a big selling point for town meeting voters.
"Where else are we going to find 60 high-tech jobs in town," said Selectman David Consolati.
BSM intends to use state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and sterilization techniques to address risks associated with drugs manufactured by small companies that lack modern facilities, equipment and rigorous quality control systems. BSM would manufacture samples of clinical injectable drugs and ship them back to the pharmaceutical or bio-tech firms for testing.
The TIF proposal was the final article of a 46-article warrant the Annual Town Meeting disposed of in just over three hours.
Town meeting representatives approved a measure asking the Board of Selectmen to gauge voter sentiment on borrowing $5 million to get caught up on repair and paving of municipal streets.
If the board honors the vote, they would place a non-binding referendum likely on the 2015 town election ballot.
If approved at a future town meeting, municipal officials said the $5 million would cover eight miles of the 55 miles of road in town.
"These roads need to be paved and we may never have a better opportunity at this price," said town meeting representative Josh Cohen.
Town meeting also adopted a fiscal 2015 operating budget of $20.8 million, up 2 percent from the current $20.4 million spending plan. The spending plan is expected to increase the average residential property tax bill by $78 to $3,548.
Other articles approved include:
n $145,000 to buy an ambulance to replace one of the two operated by the Lee Ambulance Service.
n $55,000 for converting the heating system at Lee Library from oil to natural gas.
n Revision of the street address numbering bylaw, regarding placement, maintenance and size of numbers on homes and businesses. Street numbers are not being changed under the revised bylaw.
n Sign bylaw changes that include the allowance for sandwich board and "open" flag signs, clarifying definitions of roof signs, parapet, dormer and business centers and providing the right to appeal for relief from strict compliance to the sign bylaw.
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