SMARTaxes Opposes Proposed Ice Arena Deal


Late summer greetings to all! Time to enjoy the beach or a few days at the lake or a backyard barbecue. Time for those last lazy days of summer. Time for the back-to-school frenzy.

What an ideal time to slide a sweetheart deal through the Town Council! Yes, on Wednesday, August 20, the Town Council has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from the Friends of Scarborough Hockey (FOSH) on the agenda.  FOSH proposes to build a new ice arena on Town land adjacent to the High School.  If approved, the FOSH-MOU would, among other things:

• Lease Town-owned land near the High School to FOSH as the site of the new ice arena at a bargain rate. Or, according to one news article, the Town would potentially give the land to FOSH.
• Require the Town to relocate the teacher/staff parking lot currently on the site leased (or given) to FOSH to an adjacent parcel which the Town doesn’t even own.
Waive various standard application and traffic impact study fees for FOSH.

Yes, they will point out the MOU is “non-binding.” True, but on the other hand, it is the starting point of a final agreement. And why start from a fundamentally flawed position? The Council should be clear that the MOU as drafted is not a reasonable starting point, and they should reject it.

scartax-hockey rink

This is NOT an image of the proposed $5.5 million arena… but it will surely be grand.

The proposed ice arena – to be built with $5.5 million of private funds – is envisioned as serving the Cape Elizabeth and South Portland hockey teams as well as Scarborough’s. So any financial breaks that the Town gives to FOSH (bargain land lease rate, waived fees, etc.) will also benefit CE and SoPo. It’s great to be neighborly… but not with our tax dollars.

We at SMARTaxes strongly oppose the current FOSH-MOU. (Note that we do not oppose the concept of an ice arena; that sounds like a great idea.)  But not nearly enough is known about the details of the proposed deal and FOSH’s business plan for the arena. And what we do know is disconcerting… we do not understand the rationale for the Town subsidizing a private entity at taxpayers’ expense. Whenever the Town receives less than full market value for an asset (such as granting a bargain lease to FOSH), it needlessly reduces revenue. And when revenue is reduced, our taxes need to be raised.

We want to know more – lots more – about the proposed deal. We want the public to have time to understand and question the deal. We want the Town to follow sound fiscal principles in this (and all) deals.

With those concerns in mind, we sent the following email to members of the Town Council on August 18.  Please read our letter here…

st-email to Council 08-18-14pdf

Please let the Town Council know your concerns. See the Be Heard! tab above for information about contacting Council members – it’s really easy.

Stay tuned for more details as they become available.


3 responses to “SMARTaxes Opposes Proposed Ice Arena Deal

  1. What surprises any taxpayer about this sweet heart deal?
    Will they be paying property taxes, impact fees, what about a traffic study, and who will maintain the property (such snow plowing)?
    Are there liability questions that the taxpayers should be aware of?
    Oak Hill is all ready a traffic nightmare why add more traffic, with a impact fee?

    • Thanks! These are indeed some — of the MANY — questions that should be answered before any MOU is entered into by the Town. The Council should blow the whistle on this play. Yes, it may well mean that the facility won’t be ready on FOSH’s preferred schedule, but that shouldn’t be the taxpayers’ problem! All we want is a clear understanding of what the Town is going to be on the hook for BEFORE even a non-binding agreement is signed. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?

  2. The great give away
    In addition to the town receiving property taxes (this is like a 100 year lease), the town should receive a portion of the income derived from the operation of this business.
    The business shall be required to file a income and expense report every
    year with the town to determine the amount due the town from the income, in addition to the property tax.
    Can we trust our elected officials?


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