On the Right Lane: Residential taxes and rampant growth

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“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”

Please don’t tell any of the Windham town councilors about this week’s column as it might just give some of them new ideas on how to collect even more revenue for the town coffers, which already have a significant surplus. I don’t offer any apologies for stating that because government at all levels is always looking for more money.

The city of Portland is looking at creating a room tax for each new hotel room that will be built in the future. Some are thinking that tax should be $5,000 a room for new construction and to add insult to injury, $2,500 per room for the hotels that are now being constructed. For Portland to slap on extra fees after the fact doesn’t surprise me in the least. I guess what this means in the end is that the already expensive hotel rooms in Portland will get even more expensive.

Don’t think that can’t happen in Windham. First off, residential growth has far outpaced commercial growth, which should not be surprising, so those who own residential property in Windham end up paying even higher taxes. Evidently something is wrong with our town’s planning when it comes to commercial growth, which unfortunately will never come close to reducing residential property taxes. It seems like those in our local government have given up on those false promises. Business growth in the past few years hasn’t produced a project that would really add major taxes to the general fund. Whether that’s poor planning or just because Windham isn’t a desirable place for a large commercial or industrial business probably should be looked at by some type of competent source.

Maybe Windham’s plan to rebuild North Windham into an economic powerhouse will succeed and I, for one, will be glad if it does. I just don’t expect it to happen to the extent the plan envisions without significant increases to residential property taxes. Windham already lacks services that many other towns provide, something I have never seen Windham town councilors address. I have this sixth sense that  town councilors need to take control of the council’s agenda items, especially so since they should be giving directions to the town manager on how to move Windham forward into the future. In the past Windham taxpayers have paid big money for studies of the North Windham area and, with the exception of reconstructing the Angler’s Road intersection with Route 302 and White’s Bridge Road, not that much has happened.

Make no doubt about it, North Windham’s biggest problem is Route 302 that runs through that business district. Windham has looked at building roads that would offer alternate routes to avoid traffic congestion, especially during the summer months. I won’t say “as usual,” but that idea went over like a lead balloon when some residents discovered they might lose some or all of their property. I would feel exactly the same. In other words, planning that didn’t happen in the past is now affecting Windham’s future. I will suggest that with amateurs trying to build rockets one ought to know how to hire a rocket scientist.

That thought leads me in another a direction – Windham’s spectacular residential growth. There’s no hint of how the town is going to tackle the problem of ever-increasing traffic congestion, including new roads and the increased services that come with increases in population, including schools. I won’t deny that growth is good for jobs, and that is excellent, a problem, sadly, that northern Maine doesn’t have. But growth is growth and if not handled properly there will be major problems in the future. Couple that with the encroachment of building around and near Windham’s watershed areas, and someone had better be at the helm to lead this town in order to avoid even more moratoriums.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham finds it interesting Windham will be conducting an organization study.