Claremont OKs Property-Tax Freeze for Kentucky Chocolatier

Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, November 12, 2017

Claremont — A property tax relief incentive program aimed at encouraging redevelopment of historic structures by freezing the pre-renovation assessed value of a qualifying property has been approved for the former Eserky’s Hardware, where a maker of artisan chocolate plans to begin production in the spring.

The City Council unanimously approved the community revitalization tax relief incentive for five years for Deglace of Louisville, Ky., which bought the building at 40 Union St. in March 2016.

Deglace owner Mona Changaris said she plans to be making the company’s Mountain Maple Chocolate, sweetened with maple syrup, next spring.

Currently assessed at $90,300, the building will be reassessed prior to renovations and that figure will remain in place for the five years. According to the application on file with the city, Changaris plans to invest $160,000 in interior and exterior improvements.

Keeping the assessed value at its current level allows the owner to avoid having to pay higher property taxes right after making a significant investment, which is seen as an incentive to more investment in older buildings.

Built in 1833, the brick building, painted red, sits on the Sugar River at the corner of the Main Street bridge. Planning and Development Director Nancy Merrill told the council it has the highest archeological rating for historic structures.

Changaris said Friday her company wants to be producing the chocolate here during the height of the sugaring season. She said the company is already are making the maple-sweetened chocolate in Kentucky and shipping it to customers in Michigan and New York. That requires the syrup to be shipped south, and the finished product shipped back from Kentucky.

“It makes more sense to make the chocolate where maple syrup is produced,” Changaris said. “We anticipate most of our customers will be up north.”

Interior renovations have already begun, but the planned refurbishing of the brick exterior will now wait until the warm weather returns, Changaris said.

According to the application, the 5,200-square-foot building will have new, energy-efficient windows, a new wooden door to replace the glass-and-aluminum one there now, and new flooring and insulation. The walls and ceilings will be repaired and repainted. The electrical and plumbing systems will be upgraded as needed and new energy-efficient lighting installed.

Changaris has received approvals from the Planning Board to operate the business, and from the Historic District Commission for the renovations.

The council previously approved the same tax relief incentive program for The Ink Factory on Water Street in 2016, where owners Jeff and Sarah Barrette invested more than $400,000 in the two-story brick structure that originally served as housing for textile workers at Monadnock Mills in the mid-1800s.

The Barrettes also earned historic tax credits by renovating the building to national historic standards.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.