By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,567)
At its monthly meeting last week, the Economic Development Committee, (“EDC”) unanimously approved a plan to create a new department, Permitting and Inspections Department, intended to streamline the process for small projects, like decks, and improve customer service at the same time. The proposal came from City Manager Jon Jennings and was presented at the EDC meeting, of which Councilor David Brennerman is chair.
Under fire for years for its laborious turnaround time, inefficiency and sometimes less than courteous customer service, it is hoped that this new department will correct those problems. “The third floor is drowning with what we’ve asked them to do,” said Jennings.
“This is not about large developers. This is about mom and pops adding decks,” said Jennings. “We have over promised in the past and didn’t deliver. There is mistrust out there. There is real money we are loosing,” Jennings also urged emergency passage of this because the building season is approaching. The creation of this new department would increase costs for salaries by $280,000 plus training expenses of $8.500. The addition costs for major technology upgrades could come in at $300,000. Jim Brady, developer of 58 Fore Street, d/b/a/ CPB2, testified that the proposed fee increase was out-of-line with similar communities and should be revisited. (See photo of Jon Jennings and Greg Mitchell, Director of Economic Development Office, in above, right photo.)
The Committee also approved a more controversial amendment delegating authority to the City Manager to sell tax-acquired properties. Proceeds from that will go to the city’s Housing Trust Fund. There will be annual reporting to the City Council.
Greg Mitchell, Economic Development Director, presented a work plan for this coming year. It included another review of the Portland Ocean Terminal on the Portland waterfront. Years ago, the proposed development of the Terminal became a divisive issue in Portland as two developers competed for the rights to develop the Pier. The Committee said this time it will be less divisive than previously. “This is a different city council and we will handle it differently than before,” said Councilor Justin Costa. “We have to decide whether we want to lease it and there are other options.”
Amethyst Lot is slated for a $80,000. study to consider “design elements for signature waterfront open space promoting recreation and use of the water in a park-like setting” according to a memo from Mitchell, dated February 3, 2016 to the Economic Development Committee.
At it’s March 23, 2016 meeting future plans for the Terminal will be discussed. The public is encouraged to attend.