2018-04-05 / News

Developer has until late May to pick up permits

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD– Construction has started on the sidewalk and fence in front of Lincoln Mill, and while city officials say it’s part of a larger plan to work on Lincoln Street, it brings the recurring question downtown: When will development on the Lincoln Mill begin?

In September of last year, LHL Holdings LLC (formerly known as Atlantic Holding, LLC) filed a joint development agreement with the city of Biddeford for the Lincoln Mill project. The project was first proposed in 2014 and is now slated to be complete by July 2020.

The Biddeford City Council amended the September joint development deal on March 21, granting an extension to LHL and developer Tim Harrington. LHL was forced to reassess and get a new property appraisal this fall after possible tax reform left its Historical Tax Credit status unsure. In the final version of the tax legislation signed on Dec. 22 by President Donald Trump, the legislation retained the 20 percent tax credit for buildings built before 1936 but requires the credit be taken over the course of five years. The prospect of losing the Historical Tax Credit left the project in the air temporarily, and by the time the credit was reinstated, the previous appraisal for the property was too old to secure financing. This required LHL to apply for an extension while waiting for a new appraisal, which can take between 12 and 16 weeks. The most recent appraisal values the property at $2.1 million. LHL Holding purchased the property (as Atlantic Holdings LLC) on Jan. 16, 2015 for $2.5 million. LHL is expected, per the agreement, to invest $40 million into the project.

As part of the joint agreement, the city agreed that it would make improvements to the area in correlation with LHL’s development. Among these developments is to make (or have made) road improvement to both Main and Lincoln streets and to rebuild the sidewalk along Lincoln Street. Also included was the agreement to repair the retaining wall on Lincoln Street. In the past there have been disputes over the ownership of the fence, retaining wall and sidewalk, and while City Manager James Bennett was unsure of the property ownership, the city engineering office confirmed that the fence and retaining wall are both part of the mill and owned by the developer.

Lincoln Street construction has started by closing the sidewalk near the mill, part of a larger plan to repair the dilapidated sidewalk. This is part of the project funded by the Maine Department of Transportation that also includes the aforementioned improvements to Main and Lincoln streets, as well as modifying the intersection of Adams, Main and Lincoln streets. The city has budgeted $1.2 million for the project. The city had planned to move the retaining wall to run the electricity for the mill underground, but Bennett said the city has since decided to ground the electricity elsewhere.

The original plan for the property included an 80-room boutique hotel, but new plans for the building have shifted to exclusively residential. LHL was granted a 99-year lease for surrounding parking on the contingency that the plans include a hotel. Even without the hotel, Bennett said the lease on the parking would remain.

Included in the amendment to the joint development deal are monetary penalties should LHL fail to meet the deadlines for the beginning of construction. According to Bennett, LHL is expected to have finances in order and permits secured by May 29. In the amended agreement, should LHL fail to obtain permits by Aug. 29, it will donate $5,000 to the city for use in the downtown. Should permits not be secured by Nov. 29 the fine is $10,000, and will be $15,000 if not secured by Feb. 28, 2019.

According to Code Enforcement director Roby Fecteau, a building permit was filed by LHL Holdings dated Nov. 27, 2017. The permit has no start date specified. The permit has been processed, and only the $60 application fee was paid. The actual permit price will not be determined until finalized plans are received. Fecteau said he last heard from LHL in late January, and was told that plans were being remodeled. LHL was previously granted two permits in 2015 for Phases 1 and 2 of the project. Neither permit was paid for, and both were null and voided after no substantial start was made on the project after 12 months.

As of press time, efforts to reach Tim Harrington of LHL Holdings LLC were unsuccessful.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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