Town seeks way to keep track of property so everyone pays ‘fair share’

NORRIDGEWOCK — A proposal to require building permits could help streamline the building and planning process and ensure that all residents are paying their taxes if approved at Monday’s town meeting.

The plan is part of a new site plan review ordinance that would also require structures of 25,000 square feet or more to be approved by the planning board, while smaller structures get building approval through the town’s code enforcement officer. The proposed ordinance is one of 45 articles to be considered at Monday’s town meeting to be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Mill Stream Elementary School gymnasium.

In the last year, the assessor’s agent for the town and code enforcement officer have found more than 30 structures on which taxes have never been paid, according to Town Manager Michelle Flewelling, who said that the new site plan review ordinance will be an important step in ensuring property tax equality. She said many of the structures have been there for “quite some time.”

By requiring a building permit, the town will be better able to keep track of all structures and ensure that property taxes are collected. The owners of the properties that were not paying taxes were not necessarily breaking the law and will not have to pay taxes retroactively, Flewelling said. “They didn’t necessarily violate any rules, especially if there’s no plumbing,” she said. According to Maine law, towns of less than 4,000 residents do not have to require building permits.

With some camps, barns and trailers falling through the cracks and not paying property taxes, the town has lost “thousands and thousands” of dollars over the last few years, Flewelling said. A specific number was not available.

“We all have to pay our fair share,” Flewelling said. “This will help keep everyone in the scope of the law as well as make the process much faster and smoother.”

In addition to the proposed ordinance, residents are being asked to consider changes to the number of people serving on the budget committee and planning board and a $1,078,666 budget to come from taxation. The proposed budget is 1.4 percent less than last year’s, Flewelling said.

In the 2015-2016 year, the town hopes to get started on building a new fire station with funding to come from the current capital reserve account, TIF revenues and undesignated funds. The project is predicted to not impact property taxes at all, Flewelling said. After the town meeting, if funds are approved, selectmen will award a contract for the fire station and construction may start in late spring, she said.

The changes to the budget committee and planning board are being proposed because both groups are struggling with raising a quorum, the majority required for voting, at their meetings. Selectmen are recommending that the budget committee change from 10 members to seven and that the planning board drop from seven members to five with two alternates.

There are no contested races in this year’s elections. All of this year’s current selectmen are running for re-election. Selectman Matt Everett is not on the ballot because he did not file election papers on time, but is running a write-in campaign, Flewelling said.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for elections, followed by the business portion of the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Mill Stream Elementary School gymnasium.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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