BAR HARBOR — Hancock County’s largest employer is in the process of expanding its footprint here.
Jackson Laboratory officials have purchased $2.6 million worth of abutting property, enough for the scientific institution’s Route 3 holdings to include everything from their existing campus north to the intersection with Schooner Head Road. The purchases include the Ocean Drive Dairy Bar at the intersection. Concurrently, lab officials are using their nonprofit status to ask that much of the land, including several existing apartment buildings, be made exempt from property taxation.
“The Jackson Laboratory is fortunate to be growing, and our plans call for additional facilities in years to come, so we have purchased several contiguous properties,” Jax Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Charles Hewett said. “Some of the properties we have purchased are not yet used for our nonprofit purposes, and we continue to pay property taxes on them. When properties we’ve purchased do go off the property tax rolls, we voluntarily increase our payment in lieu of taxes.”
The Jackson Lab is one of the largest private property owners in Bar Harbor, with holdings totaling $230.1 million in value, according to town assessments. Their main campus on Route 3 comprises 56 acres.
As a nonprofit institution, the lab is exempt from paying property taxes. Their voluntary payment to the town in lieu of taxes for the current year was just over $77,000. If Jax were a for-profit company, their real estate tax bill for 2014-2015 would have been $2.4 million, town officials estimate.
Of the properties now owned by the lab between their main campus and Schooner Head Road, the most recent purchase was the Dairy Bar. The lab bought the property on Jan. 28 of this year for a price of $200,000. Lab spokesperson Joyce Peterson said that there are no solid plans for the structure on the property at this time.
Several other key purchases were made in early October of 2014. These include three apartment buildings formerly owned by Steve Parady and two more that were owned by Sound Investments Inc. The total purchase price for the three properties, including five apartment buildings, was $2.3 million.
The most expensive of the apartment buildings, a 24-bedroom building owned by Steve Parady, is valued by the town at $878,200. That property is not included in the lab’s current tax exempt request.
Two other properties that are included in the request were purchased several years ago. A residential property on Schooner Head Road, worth $291,000, was purchased by lab officials in 2006. Another residential property on Schooner Head Road was purchased in 2011 and is valued at $282,900.
The lab’s latest request for property tax exemptions covers $1.7 million. At the estimated property tax mill rate for the next fiscal year, the loss of tax revenue on the property would total approximately $18,400.