|Pittsfield Panel Recommends TIF Agreement to Bousquet|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
06:13PM / Saturday, February 06, 2021
|Bousquet is sking for a five-year tax incentive.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Finance Subcommittee on Thursday unanimously recommended a tax increment financing agreement for the new owners of Bousquet Ski Area: Fresh Powder LLC and Blue Chair Properties LLC, which are both companies of private investment group Mill Town Capital.
"A TIF agreement is really a great way for the city to help invest in things going on," Councilor at Large Pete White said. "And I don't think I've ever seen one that invests this much as far as what we're going to get out of it."
The five-year TIF agreement offers 100 percent forgiveness of real estate and personal property taxes in Year 1 and decreases 20 percent a year for Fresh Powder that owns the property and business owners Blue Chair Properties.
The estimated capital investment of the project is $11,315,000 and is expected to create seven full-time positions and 130 part-time employment opportunities.
Mill Town purchased Bousquet in May 2020 and closed the purchase of neighboring Berkshire West Athletic Club at the end of 2020 along with the purchase of the former Lakeside Christian Camp five minutes down the road in Richmond.
Mill Town's CEO and Managing Director Tim Burke said the investment group's entire mission is to make Pittsfield a better place to live. To achieve this, they are running work through a few impactful community projects where they support nonprofits and community groups, investing in and developing real estate with a focus on market-rate housing, and investing in small businesses and in operations that are important to the city.
In the last four years, Mill Town has deployed about $45 million of equity, debt, and grant contribution in four key areas: iconic local assets, neighborhoods, outdoor recreation, and community engagement.
Over the past year, Mill Town has taken a bigger focus on outdoor recreation and local assets, which is where Bousquet comes in.
"Places like Bousquet are really important to the community," Burke said. "they are long-standing historic and valuable features that have a big outdoor recreation and employment component."
If they can run Bousquet and Bousquet Sport (formerly Berkshire West) right, Burke believes it should ultimately generate income that can go back into the community.
"It's one of those downtown investments that we just felt like we couldn't see it close," he said. "We kind of stepped in at the 11th hour and acquired the business."
The three properties -- mountain, camp and sport facility -- will offer year-round amenities that include outdoor recreation, indoor athletics training, water sports, and lodging under the Bousquet brand.
"The strategy here is to really leverage that iconic well recognized and very loyal following to the Bouquet brand and attach it to these other places," Burke said.
Since acquiring the mountain in May, the investment group has put about $5 million into Bousquet including acquisition costs and improvements they have made so far, and plan to put in another $5 million in the future.
After a full inspection, it was determined that the base lodge is in disrepair and would cost more to retrofit the building than to build new. The future plan is to build a new base lodge and continue the ski business as the core, but include year-round programming that focuses on hiking, biking, and other outdoor recreations.
"Overall, we see a lot of promise here," Burke said. "I think this has the potential to be a really strong outdoor recreation and sustainable operation for Pittsfield."
Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer explained that $214,358 of Bousquet's taxes will be forgiven per year amounting to about $1,071,779 over five years.
White described his own experience working at Bousquet for five seasons while in college. He emphasized the importance of keeping Bousquet running because it is a huge destination spot that brings people to Pittsfield and therefore stimulates the local economy.
"I know for me as a kid coming straight out of Taconic while I was going to college, Bousquet offered me something I could do with no skills going in," He said. "Yet I got to know so many community leaders because they were working there themselves at night to get their kids a ski pass, they were volunteering up there to make sure that tickets were checked while their kids were doing the race team."
When Bousquet was put on the market, White said he was in fear for the ski area's fate after seeing Brodie Mountain in Hancock bought and only to be put out of business and turned into condominiums.
Councilor at Large Earl Persip III said the TIF is a very small number when you consider the financial and physical benefits to the community. He added that it is important to remember people that rely on seasonal and part-time work to
"I think it's important to support projects like this and not think short term," Persip said. "To think long term because after these five years, there's going to be some nice taxes coming into the city and we will have a great facility."