In an effort to attract new businesses, Fort Fairfield is moving forward with a municipal land incentive program.

The Town Council voted unanimously last month to authorize a new municipal land incentive program proposed by the town’s Economic Development Board.

The program will “in effect give land away” to a business developer, with a host of conditions, including employment of at least two people, said Gary Sirois, chair of the Economic Development Board.

Sirois, who also runs Fort Fairfield Public Storage, said the board has been searching for approaches to assisting and incentivizing business startups.

“We’re one of many, many small towns in Aroostook County,” Sirois said at the council meeting “We’re all going through the same downturns and loss of population. How do we stand out? If we find a way to in effect give commercial land to somebody, somebody may take note.”

The board looked at a range of models, including Houlton’s Entrepreneur Challenge, a contest that offers a startup with a winning business idea a $35,000 incentive package, including a $25,000 forgivable loan.

“We don’t have the money for that,” Sirois said, but it led to another idea: “If we didn’t have the cash, what do we have? Land.”

The town owns a number of large parcels of undeveloped land, mostly in commercial zones.

“If we can entice somebody to come into Fort Fairfield to build a building, employ some people, then this land that’s been lying idle, owned by the town for decades, will now generate some tax revenue and hopefully employ some people,” Sirois said.

One parcel that the board plans to market is on High Street, not far from downtown and where the town highway department parks vehicles.

With 6.8 acres and access to water and sewer lines nearby, “that is in my opinion ripe for development,” Sirois said.

The board is working on finalizing the application materials and guidelines for the program and will post them on the town’s website in the coming weeks.

Among the other requirements for the deal, developers would have to comply with all local and state regulations and pay taxes on the assessed value of the property, which is $10,000 per acre in the case of the High Street location, Sirois said.

The town would sell the property to the developer for the tax assessed value, but with a financing arrangement that would essentially be free, except for the taxes. Financing would be offered at no-interest for five years, and “the annual installments will be forgiven on the anniversary date provided the developer does what he’s supposed to do,” Sirois said.

If the land is sold, the balance would have to be paid on the land. Developers also would be required to give the town a deed to property to be held in escrow, and if the developer doesn’t meet conditions, the town has the option to reacquire the land, Sirois said.