2018-08-17 / Front Page

K’port board: No new roads

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — While new residents are welcome in Kennebunkport, new roads need not apply.

Selectmen have initiated a new policy of refusing to accept new subdivision roads as public streets, citing an inability to keep up with maintenance of new roads within current budgetary constraints.

At their Aug. 9 meeting, selectmen reviewed a new board policy designed to lay out the process by which a new road can get accepted by the town. Although that policy was described by Town Manager Laurie Smith as “a very rough draft at this point,” selectmen have refused on road requests already.

At their July 26 meeting, the board denied a request to take on Reid Lane, a new subdivision road off North Street with 10 homes built in 2015 and 2016. The road also has two additional unbuilt lots.

At that July session, Public Works Director Michael Claus said he would need to buy at least one new plow truck and hire additional workers if the town accepted “a few more roads.” Selectmen then directed Smith to develop the new policy.

That new policy states that a road may be brought before selectmen with a request for a town meeting vote only if it “provides sufficient public benefit to justify perpetual public maintenance.” Among the enumerated criteria for public benefit, the policy asks, does the road lead to a public facility, and, does it connect to other roads. There also is a catch-all category: “Other public benefit.”

As drafted, the policy says the planning board shall determine “early in the ... approval process” for any new subdivision whether a road built to access new homes “shall be a public or private way.”

In either case, the developer must build the road to town specifications. However, if the planning board has marked the road as a potential public asset, town staff and the town’s contracted engineering firm will review construction specs provided by the developer, while selectmen will conduct a “review of public benefit.”

Town staff, the engineering firm, and selectmen will all submit recommendations to the planning board. Once planners approve the road, it can be sent be sent back to selectmen for consideration once 75 percent of the subdivision homes have been built. Although the current draft policy does not say so explicitly, the final say on acceptance would still go to town meeting voters, assuming selectmen vote to place it on the warrant.

The policy also does not currently detail the petition process by which residents of a new road might bypass selectmen and take their request directly to referendum.

Reid Lane residents are not happy with the selectboard’s July 26 decision on their road.

At the board’s Aug. 9 meeting, Judith Phillips said turning the road over to the town is a safety issue. Having lived on Reid Lane for two winters, she said, she has seen how, by season’s end, the road is reduced to “a single trail that no two cars can go by at the same time.”

“Getting out of the street is dangerous at best,” she said, noting that, unable to plow snow out onto North Street, contractor’s hired by the subdivision association “have no place to put it.”

On behalf of his neighbors, Reid Lane resident Allyn Lamb once again asked selectmen to put acceptance of the road on the November warrant. But the board declined.

“We are running out of highway capacity for removing snow,” board chairman Ed Hutchins said. “It would cost is over $300,000 to accept any new subdivision at this point.

“Does this mean there will never be any new subdivisions in town,” Phillips asked.

“Perhaps,” Hutchins said, adding, “What we are saying is that a new subdivision (roads) would have to provide a benefit to all of the town, not just the people living on that road.”

“I don’t like the system the way it is now, because it implies that if a town is brought up to standard it would be accepted,” Hutchins said. “That’s not fair treatment because here we are now, where we can’t accept any more roads. We just don’t have the capacity to deal with them.”

“Years ago we didn’t have all the building that we’re having with all these subdivisions coming to town,” Selectman Allen Daggett said. “We’re overwhelmed by it. We just don’t know how to deal with it. Plowing, road maintenance, everything else — it’s just so much money.”

“We don’t mean to throw you under the plow, so to speak,” Hutchins told the gathered Reid Lane residents, “but, counting yours, we have at least four new subdvisions. We just can’t accept all of them.”

Selectman Sheila Matthews-Bull acknowledged the residents of Reid Lane have already dropped “a good chunk of change” bringing their road up to town specs.

“Don’t give up hope,” she told them, adding for her peers, “The people on this street were led to believe that if they did this, this, and this, that the town would accept their road, or that it (the question) would be put on the warrant.

“If we are going to accept this new policy, I think we need to do it as soon as possible,” Matthews-Bull said.

Dan Jantzen, who moved to Reid Lane two weeks ago, asked if selectmen might consider subcontracting some road plowing work, to save on hiring staff with benefits, and expanding the town fleet.

“My concern with that would be that, if we accept your road and do that, all the other subdivisions in town are going to come back and ask us to subcontract for their roads,” Hutchins said. “You all paid very handsomely for your lots. I understand that. But I don’t see where the justification is for the other residents of the town to subsidize your costs.”

“We don’t have a lot of control over contractors,” Daggett said. “I think we would have more problems with contractors that those who work for the town.”

Still, Jantzen, persevered. Other town residents run and walk dogs on Reid Lane, he said, suggesting a road can be a dead end and still serve everyone. As a CPA, he also said the new homes on Reid Lane bring in tax revenue, which should offset some of the town’s cost to maintain the road.

The nine homes on Reid Lane are assessed by the town at between $453,000 and $1.3 million. Jantzen ballparked that should net the town $125,000 or more in property tax revenue.

“I’d ask you to think about whether you want the town to grow or not,” he said.

Nobody disputed Jantzen’s claim, although Selectman Patrick Briggs did invite him to run for selectman.

The board voted unanimously to have Smith submit the town policy for vetting to the town attorney. It will come back for consideration and likely vote at a future meeting.

After the Aug. 9 meeting, Smith said Kennebunkport does not have an impact fee.

Popularized in Florida in he 1970s and established in Maine in the 1990s, impact fees are charges assessed on new development to help offset the cost of new supporting infrastructure in a town, as well as ongoing maintenance, from road plowing to public education.

Two different types of impact fees are currently at use in Maine, each is enabled by different statutes. They include fees established by ordinance and so-called “mitigation fees” applied as part of subdivision and site plan approval, and generally assessed to new homeowners before an occupancy permit is issued.

According to the Maine Municipal Association, “The distinction is that an impact fee ordinance is separate from subdivision and site plan approval and may be triggered by any development meeting the criteria of the ordinance. All applicable projects are subject to impact fees, whereas mitigation fees are charged on a case-by-case basis.”

The MMA also notes that “Maine statute requires that the amount of the fee must be reasonably related to the development’s share of the cost of infrastructure improvements made necessary by the development.

“Revenues received from impact fees must be segregated into a separate fund and must be eventually refunded if the project is not undertaken within a specified time period“

MMA also point out in a 2007 Maine Townsman article, that “one key distinction of ‘mitigation’ fees is that they require a developer to pay a proportional share of an overall infrastructure improvement, and that improvement does not need to be specifically designed or planned at the time of the fee assessment. If the improvement is never constructed, the fee must be returned.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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