PORTLAND – Instead of creating parking spaces for their projects, developers in Portland will have the option of paying fees to the city to help fund alternative transportation projects.

On Monday night, the City Council enacted what is believed to be the state’s first ordinance allowing fees in lieu of parking spaces.

It’s designed to encourage development on Portland’s peninsula while getting commuters to use something other than their cars to get to work or appointments. The ordinance applies only to the city’s peninsula.

“I’m very supportive of what we are doing tonight,” said Councilor John Anton. “What we’re doing is taking baby steps.”

Instead of being required to create parking for new projects, developers can choose to pay the city $10,000 for each parking space that would have been required for a project, residential or commercial.

Portland’s rules have required developers to establish a set amount of parking space based on the size and the use of their buildings.

City Councilor Kevin Donoghue said the issue has been studied thoroughly for two years by the council’s Transportation Committee, the city’s Planning Board and its planning staff.

After a public hearing and discussion that lasted 90 minutes, the council voted 8-0 to adopt the changes recommended by the Transportation Committee.

Several people spoke during the hearing, nearly all of them supporting the ordinance.

“Parking requirements are such a sensitive issue. You try to strike a balance. This gives us that balance,” said Bill Hall, chairman of the Planning Board. “It’s a smart move for the city.”

Kevin Bunker of Brunswick, who developed Crescent Heights, a student housing project near Maine Medical Center, was generally supportive of the ordinance, calling the $10,000 fee “high enough to cause a little bit of pain, but low enough for someone to try.”

“The big thing for me is flexibility. Just to know I have that as an option is great,” he said.

Kerry Lord, who rents apartments on Deering Street, expressed concern that if developers are encouraged to pay fees rather than create parking, occupants of the new buildings will take scarce on-street spaces.

The ordinance establishes a sustainable transportation fund for the money generated by the fees. The money could be spent on new shared public parking, pedestrian or bicycle lanes, or to match federal and state transportation grants.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]