The package of memos had barely been collated before representatives of the Chamber and the hotel industry began undermining the idea of “hotel linkage” that is currently under study by the city’s planning board. The preliminary introduction was presented by Tuck O’Brion at the planning board’s meeting earlier this week.
“A linkage fee would be assessed on newly developed hotels at the time of completion based on the fact that hotels employ a large number of low income workers, many of whom need to live near their place of employment due to their hours of work or other factors,” according to a memorandum from Jeff Levine, Director, Planning and Urban Development Department to the planning board.
A memo to Levine from a GPCOG Planning Director from June said that “linkage fees are fees that cities may choose to implement to help mitigate the efforts of new commercial development on the demand and availability of affordable housing, It is assumed that new commercial development contributes additional workers to a city’s workforce and adds new worker households.” The fees derived from this method would fund the Housing Trust to help provide housing. ( Too little too late!)
First at bat among those opposed to such a fee was Simon Thompson, of the Portland Regional Chamber. Thompson told Tuck O’Brien and the planning board that there were no adequate comparisons to comparable cities and wanted to know why hotels should shoulder this better than anyone else. Apparently he didn’t read all the background information that stated that the hotel industry is the fastest growing business, – far above the national average. Thompson also wanted a sunset clause added.
Tod Dana, owner of Asia West, who attended the planning board meeting on another matter, was overheard telling Cyrus Hagge that he resented picking on the wealthy in this way and that such a measure would never pass anyway.
Chris Thompson, of Thompson’s Point, said that he has not seen all of the data available to the planning board. Apparently he also has not done his homework on the material provided to the board and the research provided by Tuck O’Brien and Jeff Levine. Tim Soley told the board that “us developers are in favor of affordable housing, but a tax on a targeted industry is not equitable.”
In his introductory remarks Tuck O’Brion said that “we are not picking on hotels rather than others. Hospitality has begun to experience shortage of workers because of their growth. Restaurants’ margins are smaller and mostly locally owned.” He said that he has reached out to stakeholders.
Longtime board member and attorney David Silk asked O’Brion, also an attorney, if there are any guaranties hotel workers will benefit from this linkage. There are other businesses who have grown such as breweries, pharmacies – why not them? Why not other growth industries?
To be continued…