Aldermen want more details on developers fee
Using one alderman’s phrase, it may have been like putting the cart before the horse.
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr.’s proposal to charge large-scale developers a linkage fee to help offset the impacts of their projects has been stalled by the Board of Aldermen, which wants to see details of the plan before it is sent to Beacon Hill for approval.
The City Council’s Joint Committee on Rules and Ordinances, with members from the Common Council and the Board of Aldermen, is expected to take up the proposal next month.
Ward 4 Alderman L. Charles DiPerri, who made the reference to jumping the gun and moved for the proposal to be kicked back to the committee, said that before voting to send the home-rule petition to the Legislature, he would like to see at least a rough outline of the measure. Having city officials craft an ordinance only after the special legislation is passed would be the wrong way to go, he said.
DiPerri said he also has concerns about whether the timing is right for a linkage fee, given the difficult economic climate. But he said he would be willing to support one “if it’s something that works and can be flexible.” He said the flexibility could involve allowing the fee to be waived “to get certain types of development in the city.”
The mayor said his intention is to assess the fee only to large-scale developers, those whose projects “may significantly impact the neighborhood, who may create more traffic, or if tractor-trailers are involved that may be impacting the road system.
“I don’t want to hurt the small business owner,” DeMaria said. “If there is a mom or pop that wants to renovate their storefront . . . or the housing above their [store], we’re not going to ask for a linkage fee.”
DeMaria said he is confident the fee would not make the city unattractive to business development.
“Everett is really a unique place to do business for these companies coming in here,” he said. “They are leaving communities farther north because of our proximity to Boston . . . I don’t think this will drive businesses out.”
A number of other nearby cities have linkage fees, Everett officials noted, including Boston, since 1983; Medford, since 1989; and Somerville, since 2005.
James Errickson, the city’s director of planning and development, said the intent of a linkage fee is to “offset the impact that a new development would have on the community.” The mayor’s plan calls for a one-time fee that developers would have to pay to help the city address the impact of their projects on streets, parks, and recreational facilities.
He said linkage fees also help forge a partnership between a big commercial, industrial, or residential developer and the city.
“It’s the first of, hopefully, a series of many investments within the community that a commercial entity would make, the idea being that there is a shared commitment to improving the community,” Errickson said.
The Planning Board often requires developers to undertake traffic and other improvements to mitigate a project’s impacts, but Errickson said those measures tend to be limited to the immediate area. He said the linkage fee would be applied to all developments meeting the criteria, and the revenue could be used for improvements across the city.
Ward 2 Alderman Michael J. Mangan said he supports establishing a linkage fee to help the city recoup the costs it bears when large-scale projects come into Everett, particularly those like multiunit condominiums that can impact a neighborhood. He said he thought sending the matter to committee was the right move, however.
“I think it’s a good thing to get the ordinance out of committee the way everyone feels it should be before going to the Legislature,” he said. That way, if the special act is approved, “we can move forward. I wouldn’t want to waste everyone’s time crafting legislation and having it come back and all of a sudden we can’t agree in committee.”
This is the second time Everett’s mayor has tried to get a linkage fee passed. DeMaria in 2009 received City Council approval to seek the legislation, but the House clerk’s office returned the bill with suggested changes. The mayor then offered a revised bill that was rejected by the Common Council on an 8-to-7 vote last November.
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.