Mayor, Council Look to Study Bringing in Linkage Fees

By Seth Daniel

Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the City Council are bringing back an idea with a long history in the annals of Everett City government – that being Linkage Fees charged to commercial developers.

This week, Mayor DeMaria and his Administration presented a request to the City Council to fund a $50,000 study to look at Linkage Fees and begin to craft the bones of what could be an ordinance.

It’s something that DeMaria highlighted as a priority in his Inaugural Address on Jan. 2, and has jumped quickly into making it happen.

“I will work closely with our City Council this year to enact an ordinance establishing a fair linkage fee on new large-scale commercial developments, which will be used to fund the creation of affordable housing for our residents,” he said. “I would like to thank our state legislators for shepherding our home rule petition for this ordinance through the State House this session.”

The history of the Linkage Fee in Everett has a lot to do with state government. For some time, in the previous form of government, city legislators had trouble passing any petition for Linkage Fees – denying it a few times locally. Finally, in 2009, it did pass and was sent to the State House for approval. However, nothing ever happened and the matter died in Committee.

Last year, that process started again, and this time State Sen. Sal DiDomenico and State Rep. Joe McGonagle were instrumental in getting the matter passed on Beacon Hill. That paved the way for the mayor and Council to begin the task of crafting an ordinance.

Seemingly, just about everyone is on board with the idea of Linkage Fees, with a unanimous vote Monday night of the Council to approve the study. Now, however, it will depend on what comes out of the study and what the ordinance will look like.

Catherine Denisi, of the Mayor’s Office, said they will now begin the process of putting out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to get someone to conduct the study. She estimated it would take about six months to get the study completed.

Linkage Fees, she said, are usually charged to commercial developers of large projects, and using a complex formula imbedded in any potential ordinance, collect a fee from the developers to fund affordable and workforce housing developments.

“Essentially, we have about $50,000 now to pay a consultant to do a study for a planning document that would form the ordinance proposed to the City Council,” she said. “They will have to look at everything from the commercial absorption rates in Everett to average prices for industrial space…We are really just trying to figure out what the markets are for the state so what we’re doing is competitive and doesn’t deter any new development. It’s one tool we want to be able to use to add affordable housing in Everett. We are super excited to get going.”

She said that while some plans for Linkage do include residential development, this one likely wouldn’t.

“Very rarely is it applied to residential development and we just passed the Inclusionary Zoning for residential,” she said. “My instinct is we would not apply it to residential.”

An RFP is expected to go out for a consultant to do the study within the next month. The Council hopes to have something in hand before the summer.

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