Westbrook Planning Board OKs impact fees

The Planning Board has approved establishing impact fees for development related to schools. It opposed establishing fees related to the sewer system.

WESTBROOK — The Planning Board has approved a general impact fee ordinance and one as it relates to school development, not one for the sewer system.

The board on Tuesday unanimously approved establishing two of the three impact fee systems it has been considering. The vote to establish impact fees for the sewer system failed 3-3.

Planning Board Chairman Ed Reidman and members Greg Blake and Dennis Isherwood voted in favor of sewer impact fees, and Vice Chairman Rene Daniel and members John Turcotte and Robin Tannenbaum voted against it.

The ordinance amendment, which would impose a one-time fee on developers for school impacts directly related to the specific development, will be sent to the City Council for adoption. The Planning Board also removed language that would have made the fees apply retroactively to October 2016.

According to draft language in the impact fee ordinance, the City Council wants to establish fees because “new development creates demands on municipal government to provide new public facilities and to expand, improve or replace existing public facilities.” The fees would be used by the city to pay for new or improved facilities that are needed only because of new development.

The general impact fee ordinance allows the school development fee language to exist. The school impact fees would be based upon the number of units in a dwelling.

If it had been approved, the sewer impact fee would have applied to new construction, expansion of existing units or businesses, or a change of use at an existing building.

The City Council in October asked the city administration to research impact fees. The request aligned with discussion around development projects in the city including the Blue Spruce Farm development, the school expansion project and the Waterstone Retail Development Plaza.

In May, the council asked the Planning Board to create amendments to the city’s Land Use Ordinance to establish impact fees. The board held a workshop on the issue June 20.

The Planning Board on Aug. 2 held three public hearings regarding the general impact fee ordinance and the school and sewer impact fees. Over half a dozen people spoke, with most asking clarifying questions and others saying they were against impact fees.

Some residents said establishing impact fees would be bad for growth in Westbrook and would discourage people and businesses from moving to the city. Some members of the Planning Board agreed and said the sewer impact fee may be too much of a burden on businesses.

There has been no discussion yet of when the City Council will vote on the Planning Board’s recommendation.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The Planning Board has approved establishing impact fees for development related to schools. It opposed establishing fees related to the sewer system.