Since its inception, MEREDA has continued to make progress on behalf of the development community addressing the challenges and issues relating to Maine’s real estate activities. MEREDA’s strength has always come from the support and participation of its valued members. While we look forward to the beginning of a new fiscal year, it is important that we take a moment to look back and reflect on our accomplishments, and take time to thank you, MEREDA’s members, (320+) for your investment in the Association over the year. Your continuing support is critical to our ability to maintain and increase our advocacy work, programs and related services, which are all vital to development interests in Maine.
It’s been a very busy year, and we have some great successes in the legislature and some great events and other accomplishments that we are excited to share with you!
MEREDA’s Three Overarching Priorities. MEREDA serves members’ mutual interests in responsible development by advocating for fair and predictable regulation, hosting events rich with educational and industry insight, all the while providing opportunities to network with a diverse group of real estate professionals.
Over the past few months, MEREDA’s public policy initiatives have been front and center for the organization. This session, MEREDA ambitiously submitted three bills to the Maine Legislature for consideration. We’re happy to report that two of our 3 bills have passed! In addition, MEREDA’s Public Policy Committee and Counsel continuously monitor bills printed that may be of interest to MEREDA, choosing to weigh in on those that pose significant opportunity or risk to responsible real estate ownership and development in Maine.
LD #805, “An Act to Streamline the Municipal Review Process When Dividing a Structure into 3 or More Dwelling Units and to Amend the Process for Recording Subdivision Variances”, now Public Law 2017, Chapter 104, will streamline the process of getting permits when a building is being subdivided into 2 or more units, by removing the requirement that such projects get state subdivision law approval if they already are getting municipal site plan ordinance approval. This law will take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns.
In collaboration between the MEREDA public policy committee and the Regional Organization of Municipal Attorneys, L.D. 1381, “An Act to Clarify Appeals of Municipal Land Use Decisions” is now Public Law 2017, Chapter 241. This law states that a municipal land use decision that must be reviewed by more than one municipal review board, must receive a final decision from each board before the decision can be appealed to Superior Court. The law clarifies some confusion which arose as a result of a 2016 Maine Supreme Judicial Court case entitled Bryant v. Town of Camden. This law will also take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns.
We’ve also found ourselves at the negotiating table on the proposed increase in fees for review of plans by the State Fire Marshall, and to support the Voluntary Remedial Action Plan program at the DEP. In both cases, we are going to see fees increase, unfortunately, but fortunately we’ve been effective at reducing the increases from the original amounts requested.
MEREDA is also being asked by other groups to testify on bills of interest to our membership, such as supporting a bill proposing a statewide economic development plan, and opposing a bill proposing changes to the TIF law to limit a municipalities’ ability to offer credit enhancement agreements to only certain types of uses. Suffice it to say that we are actively representing the interests of developers at the Maine legislature on a daily basis. We appreciate the efforts of our many Public Policy Committee members in guiding that work.
For more detailed information on these bills and our efforts this past legislative session, please refer to last week’s Maine Real Estate Insider Article, MEREDA Continues to Improve Real Estate Development Climate – Succeeds in Changing Two Laws to Streamline Processes and Minimizes Two Fee Increases During 2017 Legislative Session.
MEREDA Hosts Hall of Flags Event at the State House
On Thursday, April 13, MEREDA hosted its first Hall of Flags event at the State House. Hall of Flags events are an opportunity for business, organizations and others to showcase and highlight the mission of their organization, their membership and notable achievements, as well as to mingle with members of the Legislature. MEREDA’s first Hall of Flags day was a great success, and provided a unique opportunity for MEREDA members to meet with and talk to Legislators as they go about the work of their day. MEREDA’s event featured poster presentations of notable projects undertaken by MEREDA members. The Hall of Flags day was held on the same day as the work session for L.D. 805, so many MEREDA members were on hand to chat with legislators about our bill over a cup of coffee. We look forward to making this a regular event!
Education & Insight
Morning Menu Meetings, Networking Events, Conferences – MEREDA has held nearly 20 events this past year – topics ranging from the state of senior living and housing choices in Maine, parking, alternative project delivery and the high costs of construction among others. MEREDA’s breakfast and social events held throughout the state bring together highly-regarded experts and cover a variety of topical subjects.
Successful Forecast and Spring Conferences
MEREDA’s signature event, the annual forecast conference and member showcase in January attracted nearly 800 attendees, and this year’s spring conference had an all-time high of 280 attendees. Each year, MEREDA works hard to find forward thinking, trend-worthy topics for the annual spring conference, and each year seems to amaze us!
This year our goal for the spring conference was to offer a big picture perspective of how development is good for our collective future, and the rationale around smart growth development by hosting a “Yes-In-My-Backyard: Why Development is Good” event. MEREDA was pleased to welcome Jesse Kanson-Benanav – a Boston-area pioneer in the YIMBY (“Yes in my Backyard”) movement, as the keynote speaker at this year’s Annual Spring Real Estate Conference titled “‘YIMBY’ism: YES in my Backyard – Why Development is Good”. His perspective was augmented by a panel of local professionals who anchored this national trend in local context.
MEREDA representatives were prominently featured on, or in, various news media outlets leading up to, and following, the Spring Conference.
Build Maine – Again this year, MEREDA partnered with the Congress for the New Urbanism | Maine Chapter (CNU Maine) and the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) on “Build Maine: a tactical approach to growing Maine towns and cities” with a day-long program of dynamic, nationally renowned speakers. Build Maine brings together all people participating in the act of building our cities. The builders, funders, elected officials, engineers, lawyers, planners, finance institutions, and rule-makers converge annually to share best practices and aspirations for moving Maine forward within the political and economic climates of today. MEREDA is pleased to be able to participate in this annual event.
DevelopME – We formed a new committee for MEREDA’s enthusiastic emerging leaders. DevelopME was formed with a simple mission: “To engage membership and create professional development opportunities within MEREDA for the next generation of industry professionals”. The committee is working on developing its “Lunch & Learn” series aimed at drawing on the expertise of MEREDA’s seasoned members and sharing their experiences with this group of emerging professionals, as well as a mentorship program and other special projects to cultivate and connect MEREDA’s future leaders within the organization.
MEREDA Index – In addition to our strong efforts in Augusta, MEREDA is always keeping its finger on the pulse of the state’s real estate market. The Spring 2017 MEREDA Index reflects a solid performance in the real estate market coming in at 96.
The first quarter of this index came in at 95.70, showing only slight growth from the third quarter 2016 value of 95.67, but this was primarily due to a slowing of activity in the first quarter of 2017. In fact, the fourth quarter of 2016 was quite strong, with an Index of 98.04, the Index’s highest value since the first MEREDA’s Year in quarter of 2006. The index grew only 0.1% over the past six months, but it grew by 2.9% over the past year. The Index grew by over 7% over 2016, the strongest growth since the recovery from the recession began.
It is remarkable that the Maine economy has sustained such a healthy and robust real estate and development sector for so long. This quarter marks the eighth in a row — that’s two years — where The MEREDA Index has been above 90, a number not otherwise seen since the height of the market in 2006.
Learn more by watching the following video.
The opportunity to connect with a diverse network of real estate professionals and related service providers is a valued benefit of the MEREDA membership. Over the years, many beneficial business relationships have begun at one of our annual social events, conferences, breakfast forums, and even through committee work. We held 3 annual networking events, along with providing separate socializing time at our annual Forecast & Spring conferences, Bowl-a-Thon, and breakfasts, which give our members several opportunities to get to know one another.
Annual Strikes for Scholars –MEREDA is looking into ways to contribute and lend resources to efforts to help educate, attract, and retain skilled workers. An educated workforce is vital to support economic development. On May 4th, MEREDA hosted its 5th Anniversary “Strikes for Scholars” Bowl-a-Thon Fundraising Event at Bayside Bowl in Portland. MEREDA members put together 24 teams all to raise money and fund scholarships for Maine students enrolled in the building trades and business programs at the Maine Community College System or the College of Science, Technology & Health at USM. We raised nearly $17,000 for scholarships Maine students! MEREDA will be adding an additional $3200 to this figure to be able to assist 16 students throughout the State achieve a college credential.
MEREDA strongly supports a strong education system. In fact, over the past 4 years, MEREDA is proud to have raised and donated over $47,000 in scholarships helping over 30 Maine students by making it a little easier for them to achieve their goal of obtaining a college credential. This year, those numbers will jump to $67,000 and 46!
MEREDA’s leadership, members and volunteers are a vital part of Maine’s economy. In addition to providing quality programs and events for our members, raising money to fund student scholarships, and creating a new committee called “DevelopME” to help guide MEREDA’s emerging leaders of tomorrow, we continue to work hard each and every day to help foster a healthy development climate.
We’re proud of our many accomplishments this last fiscal year, and we can’t do it without you, our members and volunteer committee members. As always, thank YOU for your continued support of MEREDA and its programs! We wish you an enjoyable summer and look forward to seeing you back here this fall for more great events beginning in September.