Council discusses raising impact fees

Leader photo by Ethan Steinquest

Portland Mayor Mike Callis said the Portland City Council is looking to fund improvements to city services through impact fees to keep pace with growth projections for the next 10 years, and the council held a discussion during its work study on Monday, Oct. 7.

What are the proposed impact fees?

Consulting firm Tischler Bise, Inc. presented two options for new impact fees to the Portland City Council -- although the members of the body do not intend to pass these fees as presented, they discussed using them as a guideline and/or scaling them down to a percentage.

Residential development, Option 1 (to maintain current levels of service): Approximately $4.9K per single family residence and $2.5K per multi-family residenceNonresidential development, Option 1 (costs per 1,000 square feet, to maintain current levels of service): Approximately $1.1K for industrial, $4.6K for commercial, $2.5K for offices or other services, $3.2K for institutional and $1.4K for hotels (per room)Residential development, Option 2 (to recover costs for expanded service): Approximately $5.2K per single family residence and $2.9K per multi-family residenceNonresidential development, Option 2 (costs per 1,000 square feet, to recover costs for expanded service): Approximately $1.3K for industrial, $5K for commercial, $2.7K for offices or other services, $3.6K for institutional and $1.5K for hotels (per room)

What are Portland's current impact fees?

Residential development: Approximately $1.4K per single family residence (under 1,500 square feet), $1.6K per single family residence (1,501-2,999 square feet), $1.9K per single family residence (3,000 or more square feet), $1.3K per multi-family residenceNonresidential development (per 1,000 square feet): $144 for industrial, $0 for commercial, $0 for offices or other services, $558 for institutional and $0 for hotels (per room)The Portland City Council held a discussion on potential impact fees at its work study on Oct. 7, as the city looks toward additional funding for services to match growth projections.

Projects the city hopes to take on through impact fees involve the fire department (potential new fire station, engines, ladders), parks and recreation (improvements to city parks using vacant land), police department (facility improvements/renovations, vehicles) and streets (5 lane miles of arterial road).

New residents, business and

See Council/Page A4

industries moving into Portland would be the ones affected by any fee changes, and the amount is currently up for discussion among city officials.

Benjamin Griffin, a senior fiscal/economic analyst at Tischler Bise, Inc., presented two possible fee options based on a study the firm conducted, but the council does not intend to approve the options as presented.

"We don't want to be known (for having) the highest (impact fees) in the area," Mayor Mike Callis said. "Growth costs money, and when you start putting it all together there are some serious needs there. I don't know about a good recommendation except ... a percentage (of what Griffin presented). We understand the math and the projections, but we need to come to a good number so we're almost backing our way into it."

One of the council's considerations is how much to impose on industries, which historically have not paid large impact fees in Portland.

"I feel like it's really justified to increase the burden to industry a little bit more," Vice Mayor John Kerley said. "The numbers I was seeing look like they're pretty low for industry and moderately high for residential. We put our industries right out on the interstate, can provide all the natural gas they need and we've scraped and scrounged to be able to provide all the water they need ... (but then) they're just coming on and off the interstate, and we're carrying all the burden."

Alderman Brian Harbin expressed concerns about the fees Griffin proposed for industry in particular, which were based on an estimated 700,000 square feet of new property over 10 years.

"We've managed to grow this city to it's current place, build the fire hall and do all of this with 1/3 of our current impact fees," he said. "700,000 square feet in the next 10 years doesn't make sense to me ... we do a million square feet every couple of years."

Harbin added that he sees the city's current fees as too focused on parks, and recommended moving some of those funds into the fire and police departments before working to see what additions may be needed.

"If we're going to put anything on industrial and commercial, I don't see the need to put more on residential," he said. "We're sitting here talking about increases, and we're in the top right now."

Hendersonville is the only neighboring community that currently has higher impact fees than Portland, and they are not expected to approve a set of increases being discussed as of Oct. 7.

"If Hendersonville doesn't ... they'll be at $7,500 per 1,600 square foot," Griffin said. "If you take the street component out, that drops you to $7,800 right there. If you make some adjustments to parks ... there are ways to get there. Another conversation is, do you need to build new fire facilities over the next 10 years?"

The city plans to work with Tischler Bise to make adjustments to the fee proposals before coming to any decisions.

In the council meeting following the work session, Callis recommended the city stop providing electrical permits beginning in January 2020.

"The talk is they're going to set up an office in Gallatin to do that in the county offices," he said. "Right now for this year, we've done over 1,000 permits ... that eats up our staff's time, and we don't really get any money for it (the city receives $5 per permit). With White House (and other nearby communities) not doing it, can you imagine the flow of traffic into Portland when we're the only ones? We get all the flak (but) it has nothing to do with us, it's simply a service for the state ... (and) they need to do it, so let's put it all on them."

That recommendation was not part of the council's agenda for the meeting, so no action was taken following the discussion.

The council also discussed granting Sumner County 50% ownership of the Portland Public Library, a move that would bring the city in line with surrounding communities.

"Our understanding is that the Portland library is the last library in the county that holds sole ownership of the property," Callis said. "If we (give 50% ownership to the county, they) would take over any maintenance fees for the building and the property. We have talked to the county commission and we've talked to the library."

City Finance Director Doug Yoeckel said Portland would not be hurt financially if it does not hold the library as an asset, and the plan is for a plat map to be drawn up and presented to the council before further action is taken.

All resolutions on the agenda were approved, including approval for repairs to a water line on Highway 31 W and submission of an application for Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) grant funding.

Discussion on charges for secondary gas meters were deferred. and Bryan Price is slated to bring a resolution on fire line fees to the council for a vote at an upcoming meeting.

The Portland City Council's next meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 at Portland City Hall -- located at 100 S. Russell St. -- immediately following a work study at 4:30 p.m.

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