Town of Greenville and state Democratic Party push back on Gov.’s selection of Waterville Valley as an ‘opportunity zone’

  • Greenville and state officials will be holding a press conference Friday in front of the Town Hall, demanding answers about the selection process for the state's "Opportunity Zones". Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/15/2020 4:54:58 PM

Greenville officials and the state’s Democratic Party are pushing back against Gov. Chris Sununu’s selection of census tracts – including Waterville Valley, where his family owns a ski resort – to be part of a tax incentive program meant to boost development in low-income towns.

In December, Sununu and the Department of Business Affairs revealed 27 communities which would be designated “opportunity zones,” where businesses could defer capital gains taxes by investing in their communities. As part of the federal guidelines for the program, each state may choose 25 percent of its low-income census tracks to designate as “opportunity zones.”

Holly Shulman, spokeswoman for the state’s Democratic Party, said its not clear what criteria the state used when making its picks, and the Democratic Party hasn’t been able to ascertain that, despite submitting a request for the selection process under the state’s right-to-know laws on Dec. 9.

Now, communities such as Greenville, which are not one of the census tracts selected as an opportunity zone, are questioning why they were passed over, and in particular drawing attention to Waterville Valley’s inclusion.

The governor’s office has denied the choice was made due to favoritism, with spokesman Ben Vihstadt telling the Concord Monitor that the selection of Waterville Valley was made mostly due to its location along the I-93 corridor and that the selections were made based on the likelihood of attracting outside investment.

State Rep. Kermit Williams (D-Wilton), who represents Greenville, said with only a limited number of spots available, those towns that are in the need of the biggest boosts should have priority.

“There’s a feeling that Waterville Valley isn’t an appropriate place for an opportunity zone,” Williams said. “If you only had one more choice, and you had to choose between Waterville Valley and Greenville, Greenville is a much better choice.”

Williams said Greenville has the potential to be “ripe for business development” with available real estate and an under-employed worker base, but needs the kind of incentives an opportunity zone would provide.

“I’d like to see them have the opportunity to either start businesses or have other businesses come in and provide a rebirth for Greenville,” Williams said.

Rick Miller, head of Greenville’s Economic Development Committee, said the committee has been struggling to get some development projects off the ground, with their biggest obstacle being funds. There’s opportunities to better Greenville out there he said – such as creating a park on River Road, or bolstering its existing park and playground at the town’s former elementary school, or buying a lot to provide downtown parking. But those would take monetary investments.

He said the need is greater in Greenville than in some of the other communities that were selected.

“I guess what’s so disturbing is that of all the places that really don’t need a program like this, it’s [Waterville Valley],” Miller said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to change things, and there’s so many things we could have done to benefit the town with something like this.”

Williams, Miller and Hillsborough County Democratic Committee chairman Roger Lessard plan to hold a press conference in front of the Greenville Town Hall on Friday at 11 a.m. to call for answers on the selection process.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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