Portland ordinance would assess new fees for development

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PORTLAND — New housing and commercial developments could be subject to impact fees in three areas under a proposed ordinance that will be reviewed by the Planning Board at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20.

Projects that add new residential units, expand square footage or change the use of a building could be assessed fees to help pay for traffic, wastewater and parks and recreation work and infrastructure in the city.

“This idea is premised on the concept that when development occurs, it can bring many benefits, but it also affects the existing infrastructure around it by adding more cars, bikes, and pedestrians to the streets, increasing sewer and stormwater flows into city systems, and infusing additional visitors into the city’s parks and open spaces,” senior planner Nell Donaldson said in a Sept. 14 memo about the ordinance and a $69,000 impact fee study completed this year by consultants TischlerBise.

The draft ordinance will first be reviewed at the Planning Board workshop, then again at a City Council workshop at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24. Both workshops are at City Hall.

Planning Department staff have been working to draft an ordinance for impact fees to replace the current practice that is more piecemeal and assigns fees as part of the planning process.

While specific fee amounts calculated on a project’s units, rooms, square footage or wastewater capacity are not listed on the draft ordinance, the TischlerBise study sets out “maximum defensible fees” for parks and recreation of $1,126 per unit for single-family homes and $752 per unit for multifamily units.

Non-residential parks and recreation fees range from $363 per square foot to $677 per square foot. An $875 per room fee is suggested for hotels.

Transportation fees are suggested at $2,159 per unit for single-family homes and $1,023 per unit for multifamily units. Hotel room fees are suggested at $2,400. Nonresidential fees range from $1,130 per square foot to more than $8,200 per square foot.

Wastewater impact fees measured per meter range from almost $1,900 to more than $150,000.

The ordinance would also allow the fees to increase annually, effective Jan. 1, and keep accumulated fees separated from the city’s general fund.

Fee increases would be “based on the change in the construction cost index as published by Engineering News Record,” according to the draft ordinance.

The fees would have to be paid before the city grants an occupancy permit to a completed project, although waivers and credits would be available. Some credits would be based on the impacts of what is being replaced at a project site.

The city would also be required to expend the impact fees on projects in the designated areas within 10 years.

Donaldson noted 10 other Maine towns and cities already assess impact fees for a variety of purposes, including funds for schools, and fire and EMS operations. 

“In all cases impact fees may only be used on capital projects to construct, expand, or replace infrastructure required to serve new development,” she said.

Earlier this year, city Planning Director Jeff Levine said impact fees can also benefit developers by clearly showing upfront costs for planned projects.

“They can plug into the spreadsheet, and know they need to pay ‘X’ per square foot,” Levine said

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.