Economic Development Committee Reviews Three Proposals


Chair of the Economic Development Committee, Councilor David Brennerman Last Night.

“Uncertainity over international ferry operations has been a significant barrier to past efforts to plan for and utilize the POT structure,” wrote Bill Needelman, waterfront coordinator, in a memorandum dated August 31,2017 to the Economic Development Committee and which was discussed at last night’s meeting, chaired by outgoing Councilor David Brennerman.

Under discussion was how to increase utilization of the Portland Ocean Terminal (POT), a 900 ft. long building located on the Maine State Pier on the eastern end of Portland.   Needelman outlined a potential process for evaluating the increased use of the building which includes issuing a RFP for a consultant.

Councilor Nick Mavadones who is not on the Committee and is the operations manager at the Casco Bay Ferry Terminal, attended the meeting and said that it was possible for the international ferry to co-exist with whatever might happen there on the waterfront, although he sensed that the memorandum suggested otherwise. He hoped the city staff would not spend time on the project until the city council determines the future use of the Maine State Pier.  Ultimately, Chair Brennerman, directed city staff to report back to the Committee at its first November meeting with “ideas” for the Maine State Pier.

City Councilor Belinda Raw, in whose District, the Maine State Pier is located, did not attend the Committee meeting.

Secondly, and following up on a Committee goal was Brendan O’Connell, CPA and Finance Director when he introduced a new payment in-lieu of taxes policy (“PILOT”) for the City of Portland.  As of June 2017, the amount of tax exempt real estate in Portland has risen to approximately $2 billion and that represents nearly 21% of the total City valuation, a very high percentage when compared to other municipalities nationwide according to O’Connell.  There is a strong incentive for tax-exempts to come to Portland because of the high value of real estate here.  The City has no PILOT program and it would be helpful to have a unified city policy.  As Chair Brennerman, pointed out it would be a voluntary program that could be ignored by tax-exempts.  However, one example could be for them to volunteer to pay for their own police protection or to plant trees.

Mayor Ethan Strimling who also attended the Committee meeting, said not enough is said about the good that these tax exempts bring to the city – such as Maine Medical Center.  O’Connell said he will bring forth a proposal to the October 3, 2017 meeting.

Finally, Jeff Levine, Director of the  Planning & Urban Development office introduced the idea of “Impact Fees” the City could adopt for both funding city infrastructure and provide predictability for developers.  Levine said this can be a logical and fair way to address public impacts of new development.  Impact fees eliminate negotiations with developers and allow them to plug into their spread sheets known costs.

Obsessed with protecting developers, Chair Brennerman asked Levine if he were aware of any developers backing off because of impact fees.  Levine said he was not. Mayor Strimling said he liked the predictability of impact fees, but hoped for some flexibility in the policy for special situations.  If only Brennerman had been as protective of renters as vice president of the Housing (Hoax) Committee and supported some protections for them as he has for developers.

To Be Continued……..