Wharf owners provide 13-page analysis detailing financial losses to city coffers
(Portland, Maine) The City of Portland is considering new zoning regulations that will eliminate several million dollars of future tax and development revenue dedicated exclusively to improving the infrastructure of the city’s working waterfront.
The proposed changes are to the “Non-Marine Use Overlay Zone,” or NMUOZ. The recommendations to the planning board, on which a public hearing has been scheduled at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, will extinguish as much as $3.4 million in future one-time development fees that would go directly to waterfront infrastructure. In addition, as much as $1.2 million in future annual revenues from a dedicated TIF fund (tax increment financing) would also evaporate.
At an April 23rd workshop, planning board member David Eaton pressed city planning staff for hard financial data on what financial losses the zoning changes would impose on taxpayers, fishermen and the working waterfront. In reply planners equivocated, floating the possibility that they would not produce the data before Tuesday’s hearing. William Needleman, Portland’s waterfront coordinator, said he would “see what we can come up with regards to something resembling legitimate numbers. If we cannot come up with numbers that we would consider legitimate, we will report that out as well.”
Today representatives of Long Wharf, Central Wharf (a/k/a Fisherman’s Wharf) and Union Wharf sent a co-signed 3-page letter and a detailed, 13-page fiscal analysis to the chair of the planning board, Sean Dundon, providing the data for which Eaton had asked. The findings delineate “the net difference in terms of lost revenue benefits to the City and working waterfront if the current NMUOZ is reduced as proposed by the current zoning amendment.” Over time, in summary:
Total annual real estate tax revenue potential created by new development would be 55.64% less per year.
Total future annual revenue available to fund the Waterfront Capital Improvement Zone (T.I.F. District) would be 65.2% less per year.
Total funds required of new development projects for marine infrastructure investment would be 63.53% less in total.
During the April 23 workshop, several members of the board echoed Eaton’s concerns about lost value, with member Brandon Mazer asking, “Is this a solution looking for a problem?” Eaton was persistent in his objection to the lack of documentation, at one point saying that, “we’re making gestures without any real understanding of what their potential impact might be.”
All planning board members and the fisherman serving on the city’s Waterfront Working Group agree that re-drawing lines in the NMOUZ would create no new additional berthing for use by fishermen.
Ironically, the NMUOZ was created in 2010 to leverage development to directly help Portland’s fishing community, which Eaton noted during the April 23 hearing.
“We’re talking about reducing a lot of value that could be realized from the development of this waterfront which under the old zoning is supposed to benefit the fishing interests in the city,” Eaton said.
“It’s our responsibility as a board and certainly as a council to take that into account.”