Portland City Council Weekly Roundup for September 4–8, 2017

Impact fees for tax-exempt non-profits and for new developments, public hearings for the two citizens’ initiatives, votes on the cold storage building and zoning bonuses for affordable housing, and continuing with a draft pesticide ordinance.


> Tuesday, September 5 @ 5:30pm — Economic Development Committee

City Hall, Room 209 (second floor, to the left)

Key agenda items:

  • Discussion about developing a “payments in lieu of taxes” program, which would set standards and expectations for non-profits to provide the City of Portland with some revenue to offset the services that they use. (Currently, according to state law, non-profits are exempt from paying property taxes. This includes large non-profit entities like USM and Maine Medical Center. The amount of tax-exempt real estate in Portland has risen in recent years, and currently accounts for 21% of the entire city’s valuation — which is very high compared to other cities nationwide. That’s a lot of money in property taxes the City can’t collect.) Public comment will NOT be taken on this item tonight.
  • Discussion about developing a system of “impact fees” for new construction, to help the city offset the increased load on transportation, water, sewer, or other infrastructure when new buildings are built. Impact fees are very common in many other states, in particular West Coast states, but are relatively rare in New England. Public comment will NOT be taken on this item tonight.
  • Discussion about beginning a process of examining what to do with the Portland Ocean Terminal building on the Maine State pier. Public comment will NOT be taken on this item tonight.

Read the agenda and associated materials here.


> Wednesday, September 6 @ 5pm — City Council Meeting

City Hall, Council Chambers (second floor, to the left)

**NOTE: The Council will be meeting in executive (i.e. private) session from 4:30–5pm to discuss the recent dust-up between the City’s Waterfront Commission, the local harbor pilots organization and Bay Ferries, the operators of the Cat. More information about this situation can be found here.**

Key agenda items:

  • Vote on a plan to build a solar array at the Jetport, paid for mostly (90%) by federal grants. Public comment WILL be taken on this item.
  • Vote on a proposed ordinance change that would instate a 2-strike rule for disorderly short term rentals (e.g. Airbnbs). If a house is reported as “disorderly”, the City Manager may revoke the house’s permit to operate as a short term rental. Public comment WILL be taken on this item.
  • Vote on proposed zoning changes to grant density and height “bonuses” to developers of affordable housing. (For example, if a developer commits to selling 20% of new housing units at “affordable” prices, requirements for height and unit size could be loosened, so the developer can build more units and make the development more profitable.) Public comment WILL be taken on this item.
  • Vote on a proposed zone changes to the Western Waterfront area to permit a 75-foot-tall cold storage facility on the Western Waterfront, with additional limits on the size and shape of developments in this area. There has been much controversy over this development, which is being pushed by the State of Maine and commercial shipping interests, and opposed by many in the surrounding West End Neighborhood. You can read more about this issue here. Here is a map of what we’re talking about:

Public comment WILL be taken on this item.

  • Public hearing on citizens’ initiative to enact a program of rent stabilization. This referendum, if it passes, would limit the amount that large landlords can increase rents in a given year, require landlords to have cause in order to evict tenants, and require that the city collect and publish data about rental prices. The rules for rental increases would only apply to buildings built before January 1, 2017, and would sunset in seven years. (Read more…) This initiative will be on the ballot in November. Public comment WILL be taken.
  • Public hearing on citizens’ initiative to add an abutter approval process to city zoning changes. This referendum, if it passes, would apply only to situations where property owners request a change in the zoning of their property. If at least 25% of neighbors within 500 feet of the property sign a petition to stop the change, it can only continue if more than 50% of neighbors within 1000 feet approve of the change. (It is incumbent upon the party asking for the zone change to collect signatures from neighbors within 1000 feet.) This initiative will be on the ballot in November. Public comment WILL be taken.

Read the agenda and associated materials here.


> Thursday, September 7@ 5:45pm — Sustainability & Transportation Committee

City Hall, Council Chambers (second floor, to the left)

Key agenda items:

  • The Committee will continue to workshop draft pesticide ordinance language.

No agenda is available for this meeting. :-(

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