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- The Forecaster
PORTLAND — Future city development could be regulated by a clear schedule of building permit fees.
On Nov. 19, city councilors are expected to take public comment and then vote on an ordinance that would create impact fees to be applied to maintenance and improvements in transportation, parks and recreation, and wastewater management.
The ordinance was unanimously recommended for passage by the Planning Board on Oct. 9 and by the council Economic Development Committee on Oct. 16.
The fees would be calculated by the number of new housing units or non-residential square feet added, or by the increased capacity needed for wastewater flow.
For a single- or two-family home, fees could be $1,126 for parks and recreation; $2,159 for transportation, and $1,886 for wastewater, all assessed once in the permit application process.
Transportation and parks and recreation fees would be assessed by the square foot for commercial use, and categorized by types of use, including hotels, retail, office, industrial and institutional.
The ordinance would also allow an annual increase based on the rate of inflation that would be calculated every Jan. 1. Fees would also apply to building additions or changes of use where calculations exceed current estimated amounts.
Fee discounts could be granted for developers of low-income or workforce housing, and developers could ask the Planning Board to modify impact fees as part of the site plan review process.
Occupancy permits would not be granted until impact fees are paid.
City staff has been looking at creating impact fees for most of the year, and commissioned consultants TischlerBise, of Bethesda, Maryland, for a $69,000 study on city population and demographic trends, tourism and vehicle use to determine how and where impact fees could be used.
City Planning Director Jeff Levine has said a predetermined impact fee schedule has benefits all the way around, because developers would know how much they may be charged before review by the Planning Board.
Traditionally done in a piecemeal manner, the city has taken a more comprehensive approach to fees over the last few years, beginning with those assessed for the redevelopment of the former Portland Co. complex at 58 Fore St.
The new fees would also be more equitable, because they would address changes in an incremental fashion as opposed to charging a developer more for a project that would be a tipping point for new traffic signals or road improvements.
Portland would join 10 other southern Maine communities, including Brunswick, Freeport, Lewiston, Saco, Scarborough and Windham that already assess impact fees.
State law allows fee revenues to be applied to areas such as transportation, sewer, fire departments and open-space projects. The Portland ordinance requires all fees collected to be set aside from general fund revenues.
Developers in Portland could soon be assessed uniform impact fees for new projects.