An unconvinced board of aldermen earlier this week sidetracked the mayor’s plan to create a “linkage fee” program, sending the proposal to the rules and ordinances committee for further discussion and study.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria wants to charge developers of future large-scale projects a special fee that would generate extra revenue for street/sidewalk repairs and for the maintenance of local parks and recreational facilities.
The common council last week voted by a decisive 12-3 margin to seek required state approval – via a “home rule” petition – to allow Everett to set up a linkage fee “revolving fund”, which in turn would have paved the way for the implementation of the proposed linkage fee program.
But the aldermen Monday night were far less receptive than the council.
Ald. Robert Van Campen sounded a negative tone, contending that “I don’t think Everett is primed for a linkage fee program today”.
Citing the need nowadays for what he called “competitive advantages”, which he implied would be hampered by adding a linkage fee on top of the city’s high commercial tax rate, Van Campen cautioned that “we have to be careful about what a linkage fee program would attract to the city”.
Ald. Chuck DiPerri said one thing that concerns him personally is the wording in the mayor’s plan that indicates the linkage fee money shall be spent at the sole discretion of the mayor.
DiPerri said the program’s legislation needs to clearly state that the fee funds are to be administered by the mayor “with the approval of the city council”.
Sensing that his proposal was in trouble, Mayor DeMaria said he would be willing to further discuss the matter in the committee room, “rather than to have it killed tonight”.
On a voice vote, the board referred the issue to the committee on rules and ordinances.
This represents Mayor DeMaria’s second attempt to establish a linkage fee in the city.
Last summer, the city council rejected the proposal, but the administration feels that was due to politic-playing in a city election year rather than the plan being judged on its merits.
The mayor says that he’s looking to have developers of large-scale projects make “a long-term investment in Everett’s future”.
The proposed linkage fee would be a one-time payment – on top of property taxes – that the mayor is convinced developers of quality projects will be willing to make to build in Everett because of its prime location and promising future.
The mayor has assured city council members that they will have a major role in deciding the detailed specifics of the program when the actual ordinance is eventually drawn up.
According to Mayor DeMaria, his linkage fee plan, if enacted, “will assure us that a business looking to come into Everett is prepared to invest in the community long-term”.
In a power-point presentation Monday night, the mayor’s planning and development chief James Errickson noted that Medford has had a linkage program since 1989. Similar plans are now also in place in Boston, Somerville and Gloucester.
The linkage fee can be set up on a square foot, per unit or flat rate basis, and it would be a “one time charge”, not an annual fee.
Under Boston’s formula (which exempts the first 100,000 square feet of a project), the $5-million to $6-million Waters Avenue housing development here in Everett, consisting of 135,500 square feet, could generate a linkage fee of about $335,000.
Under Medford’s flat $3 per square foot formula, that same project would have a linkage fee of about $406,000.
The $9-million Restaurant Depot building here in Everett, consisting of 302,000 square feet, would have had to pay a $1.9-million linkage fee if it were in Boston and over $900,000 in Medford.
However, it should be pointed out that neither of these local projects would be subject to any linkage fee implemented here because the program would only apply to future projects that have not yet started the permitting process.