Chris Quint, PCCC City Council Liaison
March 16, 2016
While it is still early in the new year, City Hall is buzzing with activity. The City Council has not wasted any time in rolling up their sleeves and delving into some very important issues.
City Manager Jennings Proposes New Permitting and Inspections Department
City Manager Jon Jennings has outlined a new proposal, Order 165, to consolidate a number of different permitting and inspection functions into one new, streamlined department. The new department would include Inspections, Housing Safety, Zoning, and Business Licensing.
Key elements of plan include:
- New front-end position: The proposal would eliminate 2.5 office assistant positions and hire 3 new Permit Tech’s who would be trained to review all incoming applications; work directly with applicants on completeness and accuracy; issue same-day permits if applications and plans are completed; and serve as a point person for applicant questions throughout the process.
- A new IT system to streamline the permitting process
- A full review of Portland’s fee structure, assessing all pertinent fees assessed on building projects using comparable cities such as Burlington, VT and Lowell, MA. The goal would be to make the invoicing process simpler and clear.
- To pay for this new department, the City Manager proposed an increase in the permitting fee. For those projects over $1,000, the initial proposed fee would have increased from 1.1% to 1.6%. The Chamber expressed concern over this increase and asked the City Council and City Manager to work with us to come up with an alternative fee structure.
At the March 7 Council meeting Councilor Dave Brenerman offered three amendments, all focused on lessening the impact of the increased fee on development.
Brenerman amendment #1 decreased the original proposed fee of 1.6% to 1.5%. This amendment passed unanimously.
Brenerman amendment #2 would have grandfathered those projects that have “…completed Level I, II, III Site Plan review, or received Administrative Authorization approval... on or before March 8, 2016...". The Council voted 5-2 to send this amendment to the Planning Board for review due to the fact that it included language referencing affordable housing in Chapter 14 of the city code. Any proposed ordinance or amendment that has this reference included is required to go to the Planning Board for review before the Council can take action.
Brenerman amendment #3 would establish a discount, ranging from 5% to 25%, for housing development projects based on the percentage of new units that are low-income or workforce units. Like Brenerman amendment #2, the Council voted, unanimously, to refer this to the Planning Board because it deals with affordable housing as defined in Chapter 14.
The Planning Board reviewed amendment #2 and #3 at their March 8 meeting and found both amendments are consistent with Portland’s Comprehensive Plan and recommended their adoption to the City Council. The Council will take these amendments up at their March 21 meeting.
The Council voted unanimously to approve City Manager Jennings proposal, as amended with Brenerman amendment #1 (Councilor’s Duson and Mavadones were absent at the March 7 Council meeting). City Manager Jennings and his staff will now begin developing the implementation plan and creating the necessary metrics to measure success.
I will make sure everyone knows the final outcome of the vote on Brenerman amendments #2 & #3 after the March 21 Council meeting.
City Council Planning Meeting – January 25
The City Council held a planning workshop focused on setting goals for the coming year. Former Councilor Pam Plumb facilitated a lively conversation that covered a number of important topics, all of which fall under in the purview of the following Council committees:
- Economic Development
- Energy and Sustainability
- Health and Human Services
- Legislative and Nominating
The Council identified a number of issues that they would like to see addressed in the next year and then worked to narrow those issues down to a more manageable number of tangible goals. Each committee will be digging into the final agreed upon list of committee goals specific to their respective committee over the coming weeks and months.
City Council Workshop – February 8
- 58 Fore Street – Tuck O’Brien, City Planning Director, presented the Planning Board’s recommendation for designation of the Portland Company Historic District located at 58 Fore Street.
- Tax acquired and city owned property – Greg Mitchell, Economic Development Director, presented an overview of proposed amendments to city rules pertaining to the disposition of tax-acquired and other city-owned property
- City Manager Jennings proposed one stop shop for permitting and inspections. (See update at the beginning of this report)
Health and Human Services Committee
On February 9, the HHS committee reviewed the 2016 Council goals specific to the HHS committee and received brief departmental updates on those areas that are currently underway.
Comprehensive Plan Update
On February 9, Christine Grimando, Senior Planner, provided the Planning Board with an update on the process to update Portland’s comprehensive plan
Congress Square Redesign Project
The city received over 100 submissions from landscape designers and visual artists to create concepts for the redesign of Congress Square. Finalists will be invited to a site visit, interview and public forum – to be held in May – where they will present their design to the community and key stakeholders.
Community Development Block Grant Annual Committee and City Manager Presentation
At a special City Council meeting on March 14, the Community Development Allocation Committee and City Manager Jennings each presented their respective funding recommendations for the Community Development Blog Grant (CDBG) Program for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.
Order 133-15/16 – effective 2/3/16
The Housing Preservation and Replacement Ordinance (Section 14-483) now (1) defines specific geographic areas where replacement units may be provided; (2) limits the amount of time that a developer can put up a guaranty for a removed unit to three years; and (3) defines units that are intentionally vacant for three years or more as removed from the City’s housing stock.
Chris Quint is the founder and CEO of Quint CO and serves as the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce's Portland City Hall Liaison.
Prior to his current post, Chris served as the Executive Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the University of Southern Maine (USM).