Cumberland eases sewer fees, growth, building height limits

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday slashed a sewer connection fee, slightly raised maximum building heights, and increased the number of new growth permits that can be issued each year.

The fee to connect to the town sewer system has ranged from $4,000 to about $7,400, depending on the street. But the cost is decreasing to $500 through the end of 2016, in an effort to get more people connected to the system.

“We still have probably about 50 percent capacity to our sewer system,” Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday. “What we’re hoping is the folks that are living in the areas that are already (on the sewer line), but have chosen not to connect to date, will begin to connect. Because after a certain period of time, there’s not going to be a slot in the system for them anymore.”

Inflow and infiltration takes up about 15-20 percent of the system’s capacity, so about 80 percent capacity would be “a full pipe,” Shane said.

About 1,200 homes and businesses are connected into the system. Shane said that Cumberland has some of the highest sewer rates around, and that “because it’s such a small system, basically the cost is spread out among fewer users, and we’re hopeful that encouraging people to connect will give us a broader base to … offset some of the increases in the future.”

As recommended by the Planning Board, the Town Council also amended the Cumberland Code to increase allowed building heights from 35 to 40 feet. More people building homes are putting objects on their roofs, such as solar panels and satellite dishes, which typically come close to exceeding the maximum height allowance, Shane said.

The change can also help accommodate homes with a third floor, and allow businesses more architectural options for roof lines, he said.

The council also voted, with the Planning Board’s recommendation, to increase the maximum annual number of new growth permits the town issues.

The cap has been 50, and “I’m at 43 right now,” Shane said. “We are in a situation where we desperately need to increase the cap, because I see potentially another 15 more applications coming before the end of the year. … This will be one of the biggest years we’ve had in growth in … maybe 10 or 15 years.”

He noted that the Village Green project is exempt from the growth permit process.

The cap allows 65 permits to be issued. If necessary, up to 15 additional permits can be borrowed from either the previous year or the next year.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.