AUGUSTA — The cost of getting city approval for construction projects could soon increase, especially in Augusta’s historic districts.

City officials are considering increasing the fee for residential and commercial building permits. And, for the first time, councilors are weighing whether to charge a fee for a city board to determine if proposals in the city’s historic districts comply with historic preservation standards.

The proposal to increase building permit fees by 50% would bring Augusta’s fees to about the same amount charged by other Maine cities, including Lewiston, Auburn and Sanford.

Augusta’s fees would remain well less than what Bangor, Brunswick and Waterville charge, according to Matt Nazar, Augusta’s director of development services, told city councilors last week when they discussed the proposal.

Councilors, who had already discussed the need to increase building permit fees when they worked on the current year’s budget, appeared willing to approve the increases in building fees. Some felt the city had been undercharging and the current fees do not cover the cost of having staff members process the proposals.

However, a related proposal to begin charging fees for projects to be reviewed by the city’s Historic District Review Board was met with some opposition.


The city’s controversial Historic District Ordinance was added in 2016 and requires owners of buildings within the city’s historic districts to have most exterior construction projects on their homes and businesses reviewed by the Historic District Review Board to ensure they meet the city’s historic preservation standards.

Following a contentious approval process, councilors at the time adopted the ordinance, Nazar said, but intentionally did not require building owners to pay fees to have projects reviewed.

Now, under the proposal described to councilors by Nazar, building owners would pay $50 for review of a project involving a one- or two-family home or a sign in a historic district, and $150 for commercial and all other projects. And they would be responsible for paying the cost of mailing and legal advertising associated with board reviews. He said taxpayers now pay the cost to have projects reviewed by the board.

That part of the fee proposal prompted concern from at least two city councilors.

“It’s a little different, with a building permit, someone that lives in Portland could come in and build something, and I don’t care if we charge them whatever we need to charge them on a building permit,” said At-Large Councilor Heather Pouliot. “But when a resident of Winthrop Street, who pays taxes in Augusta, needs to pay an extra $50 to get this reviewed, when they already pay taxes, it’s off-putting to me.”

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind expressed concern the fees could prompt building owners in a historic district to do projects without informing the city to avoid the cost of review.


“I think you may up with compliance avoidance,” he said. “If someone can put in a window and avoid $50 or $150, I’m not sure that’s going to encourage people to come forward and say, ‘Review my project,’ if they can’t afford it.”

The proposal to increase building permit fees and add fees for historic review could go to the City Council for a vote as soon as Thursday, its next business meeting.

Nazar said if councilors agree to increase building permit fees as proposed, it would put Augusta “somewhere in the middle” for the cost of fees compared to other Maine cities.

The proposal would increase building permit fees to build a new house from 24 cents to 36 cents per square foot, plus the existing flat fee of $15, and from 36 cents to 54 cents per square foot, plus the existing flat fee of $30, to build a new commercial building. The flat fees would not change in the proposal.

Nazar said compared to the “peer communities” of Lewiston, Auburn and Sanford, Augusta would charge about the same permit fee for smaller projects, and be slightly more expensive for larger projects, because Augusta charges a lower minimum flat fee than those communities, but a higher fee per square foot.

Augusta last increased building permit fees in 2020.

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