The Town of Gorham, population 14,141 (2000) lies twelve miles west of Portland, Maine. Although some consider it as a bedroom community for Portland, the Town historically encompassed a network of villages and hamlets. The Town’s Comprehensive Plan calls for the concentration of development around two of these communities: Gorham Village and Little Falls, areas that can be served by public water and sewer. In these areas, the Plan calls for density bonuses in return for preservation of surrounding rural areas.
The potential receiving area is within an overlay district that includes several zoning districts. Developers can elect to exceed the densities of those zones but only by paying a development transfer fee for each bonus dwelling unit, meaning each unit in excess of the current zoning maximum density. At the time this ordinance was adopted, this fee was proposed at $15,000 per bonus unit. The total fee calculated for a development is divided by the total number of dwelling units (baseline and bonus) in the development to determine the fee required of each unit. This fee is paid at issuance of the building permit for each dwelling unit.
The proceeds of this fee are used to buy land or development rights from rural land. Preservation priority is given to parcels adjacent to land already under Town ownership, stream corridors, farmland and land with natural, historic, archeological or scenic resources.
In addition to payment of the fee, developments using the TDR option must connect all dwelling units to the Town’s sewer system and comply with other requirements for minimum lot size, frontage and setbacks as well as performance standards for site design, access, open space and parking. These developments must also meet the Town’s urban subdivision standards, including the installation of sidewalks and street trees.