The Maine Islands Coalition, formed last March to advocate for Maine’s 15 year-round island communities, convened for the fourth time on Friday, Nov. 12 in Rockland. Island representatives from Cliff, Great Diamond, Little Diamond, Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven, Town of Long Island, Cranberry Isles and Frenchboro attended the meeting, with others from Chebeague and Peaks taking part by telephone. Two legislators, Sen. Dennis Damon (Dist. 28) and Rep. Hannah Pingree (Dist. 36) also participated in the meeting.
An affordable housing discussion quickly turned to property taxes as the coalition discussed methods to raise funds for affordable housing. Rep. Pingree noted that an increase in the real estate transfer tax was a method used by other states to raise funds. The money from the tax could be applied to affordable housing, although some towns may prefer using the money for property tax relief instead.
Coalition members formed an affordable housing subcommittee to research how the islands might create a systematic approach for addressing high housing costs for year-round residents.
Sen. Damon discussed balancing property, income, and sales tax as a means to decrease property taxes, while Donna Damon, a Chebeague resident, brought up the local option sales tax as a method that could reduce property taxes for Maine’s island communities.
Other issues discussed included the impact of land conservation on islands, solid waste, high speed Internet access and an island cost-of-living study. The next Maine Islands Coalition meeting is scheduled for Friday, February 4, 2005 at the Island Institute in Rockland.
For more info about the Maine Islands Coalition, visit http://www.islandinstitute.org/islandscoalition
Alyson Mayo is an Island Institute fellow on Islesboro.