Published November 20,. 2012 at 3 PM

Developer seeking Front Street rezoning to build multifamily project requested massive abatement on Bodwell Road properties.

The developer seeking to rezone more than two acres of property on Front Street requested an abatement on two similar Bodwell Road properties.  Girard at Large has learned that Willam Socha has sought a massive $1.4 million abatement of properties located at 1791 and 1095 Bodwell Road.  Combined, the two developments contain 46 units of three bedroom housing plus two preexisting two bedroom units and one four bedroom dwelling.

The abatement request filed with the city for 2011 taxes was “deemed denied” by the city because the Board of Assessors did not formally respond to the requested abatements which would have lowered the property value of 1791 Bodwell Rd from the current $2.8 million to $2.1 million and from  $3.8 million to 3.1 million at 1095 Bodwell Rd.  The denials have been appealed to the NH Board of Land and Tax Appeals and are pending.

The $1.4 million reduction would lower the average assessment of each unit by nearly $30,000 and reduce tax receipts by more than $31,000.  This would shrink, by a more than 20%, the $145,000 currently paid in taxes on the two developments.

Representatives of Socha used their Bodwell Road properties as examples of the value they expect their proposed 27 unit development on Front Street to have.  However, they failed to mention that they were aggressively trying to abate the properties’ values, and didn’t state which property value their proposed development would mirror, the pre or post abatement value.  As with the properties on Bodwell Road, all units constructed on Front Street would be three bedroom rental units.

At issue is whether or not the city should change the zoning on on Front Street to enable this development.  Currently, the developer could build up to 10 units as zoned.  His request would enable a near tripling of that number.  While the developer claims “young professionals” are their target market, they’ve admitted that the development will contain a play area for children.  Their Bodwell Road properties currently house 58 children who attend Manchester’s public schools.  At an average per pupil cost of $10,000, the cost to the city for educating the children is $580,000.

Simply put, the $345,000 difference between what they pay in taxes and what it costs for the kids to go to school, which would increase significantly if the abatement request is approved, is absorbed by every other taxpayer, as is the uncovered costs of providing every other city service.  For every dollar collected in tax revenues, these projects cost the city $4 just for schools.

Using the developer’s suggestion that his Front Street property would be similar to those on Bodwell Road, it is reasonable to project the property’s value between $2.7 and 3.6 million dollars and property tax revenues between $65,000 and $77,000, depending on whether they are assessed at the pre or post Bodwell Road values.  They would also house 30 school kids which would cost $300,000.  These numbers mean this project will add another $230,000 in costs that city taxpayers will have to absorb just for the schools.  The cost of every other city service would be on top of that.

This same developer also owns a large property at 145 Cilley Road.  In addition to some commercial space, it houses one three bedroom unit, 12 two bedroom units and 4 one bedroom units.  Total number of school children housed on the premises?  Three.  It’s value is about $1.8 million and tax bill is about $40,400.  It pays for the school children and then some.

Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig, chair of the Bills on Second Reading Committee, which has jurisdiction on these issues, requested the board work with city staff to develop data and polices governing these requests to ensure the aldermen have the information the need to properly determine the benefits and consequences of such decisions.  The aldermen refered it to committee, so that information won’t be available at tonight’s meeting.  If nothing else, since the developer says that there’s no hurry to get this done, the board should table the request until proper due diligence can be done.