LEWISTON — The city might use a historic preservation tax credit program to boost the redevelopment of the former St. Patrick’s Church.

Councilors will consider pegging the assessed value of the building that overlooks Kennedy Park at $321,600 — its current, baseline value — at their next City Council meeting.

On Tuesday, they reviewed developer Andrew Knight’s request to lock in his property taxes. According to the plan, Knight would pay property taxes on that baseline value through 2019, no matter how much the actual value of the property increases.

“I’m really excited about the development of this vacant church because they are closing down and falling apart all over the state,” Councilor Mark Cayer said. “For minimal city investment, we can bring that property back up.”

The diocese and the city’s Prince of Peace Parish closed both St. Joseph’s Church on Main Street and St. Patrick’s in 2009 because of dwindling congregations and mounting expenses for maintenance.

Councilors approved the zoning for Knight in March. He plans to create a venue for weddings, receptions and conferences. The proposed zoning change would allow the facility to serve food and alcohol.

Plans call for light remodeling in the former church and more extensive work on the next-door rectory — at least $400,000 in investment.

Economic Development Director Lincoln Jeffers said a 2000 state law lets cities lock in assessed value on a historically valuable property at a current rate, as long as the developer and the city agree to a development plan.

Knight would continue to pay property taxes on the full value of the property, but the city would pay him back for taxes paid on property values above that 2014 baseline.

Jeffers said it would be similar to a Tax-Increment Financing District — a state law that allows municipalities to rebate taxes for economic development. Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said there is a big difference: TIFs allow the city to hide property value from state calculations, helping to preserve state revenue-sharing for municipal government and education funding.

The historic tax credit won’t do that, Barrett said.

“It could have a little bit of a minor impact on us, but we don’t anticipate that’s going to be a big factor,” Barrett said. “It would probably be worth less than the time, effort and expense of trying to go in and create a TIF district for that property and get it adopted through the state process.”

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