November 20, 2012

Norridgewock selectmen send hospital permitting fees back to Planning Board

Redington-Fairview General Hospital was spared about $12,000 in application fees

By Rachel Ohm
Staff Writer

NORRIDGEWOCK -- The town will ask the Planning Board to reconsider a decision made last month to not charge Redington-Fairview General Hospital roughly $12,000 in application fees for construction on a Mercer Avenue property.

The decision was discussed Tuesday night by selectmen. Members of the Planning Board attended the meeting and argued they had made the right decision.

After roughly an hour of at times contentious discussion, a motion made by Selectman Matt Everett to bring the decision before the town Board of Appeals did not pass.

Selectmen do not have authority over the Planning Board -- both are separately elected entities. They can, however, bring the decision to the appeals board.

After a second motion, the board voted unanimously to ask the Planning Board to reconsider their decision.

Charlotte Curtis, a selectwoman and Planning Board chairwoman, was at the meeting, but abstained from the votes and sat in the audience during the discussion.

"I think we made the right decision and we are going to stand by it," she said.

The town was originally made aware of the Oct. 11 decision in a letter from Code Enforcement Officer Frank Tracey.

"Any time a member of the town staff brings to me word that there might be a $12,000 mistake, I think that is worth looking into," Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said last week.

According to town ordinance, commercial construction projects are subject to application fees based on the value of the project, with projects under $500,000 charged a 1 percent fee and projects more than $500,000 being charged a 2.5 percent rate.

The hospital was initially assessed a $5,000 application fee for a project costing $499,000.

Later, when the hospital submitted final documents showing the cost of construction to be $699,005, the additional fees were not charged.

Minutes from a Planning Board meeting dated Jan. 9 said the application fee for the hospital was approved at a rate of 1 percent of $500,000, or $5,000, based on an initial estimate of the project cost.

A note underneath read: "At the completion of the project, if more than $500,000 is documented as having been spent, the town will assess extra costs for the application fee. Charlotte Curtis seconded."

Curtis said the board decided not to charge the fee because "the medical center is going to attract people here from neighboring towns. It's a lovely facility."

"I think everybody wants to look out for the best interest of the town and has their heart in the right place," said Selectmen Chairman Ron Frederick. "But I think fee reduction because some place is a good business is a wrong reason for a fee reduction, because in the future who's going to say what's a good business?"

Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368

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