Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

TOP STORY >> New fees to bring millions to Cabot

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

A study completed in March shows the city of Cabot could collect $2.3 million annually in impact fees attached to new construction.

If the city council approves the plan as drafted, the new revenue would be earmarked for roads, wastewater, parks and fire protection. Most of the new revenue, about $1.8 million, would come from average-sized, single-family homes of about 1,600 square feet, which would have an attached fee of about $3,300.

Carroll Steen the member of the stakeholders committee created by the council to work with the Texas consultants hired to do the study, who is an average citizen and not part of city government or the building or banking industry said this week that she hopes the council approves the fees as proposed by Duncan and Associates.

The impact fee will lighten the load taxpayers have to bear, Steen said. Adding that its only fair builders and developers should pay because they are the ones who create the burden on the citys infrastructure.

(Building) is the economic engine thats driving this city, she said. But its the economic engine thats going to drive it into the ground.

Furthermore, Steen wants the fees paid by the builders before the houses are sold so the city will be certain of getting paid. She is opposed to any sort of installment plan for the payments. The money needs to be available to the city as quickly as possible, she said.

James Moore, a builder and developer and former member of the city council disagrees.
Moore said he is for the impact fee.

Id vote for it myself if I was still on the council, he said.
But he is opposed to both the amount of the fee and the intended recipients.
Moore served on the stakeholders committee while he was a council member and he says he had no input into which city departments the fees would be collected for.

The first time we met, the people doing the study told us what the money would be used for. We didnt tell them, which I thought was ridiculous, Moore said.

Im for it going for water and Im for it going for streets, he said. Im not for it going for sewer because weve got a tax to pay for that.

Im for it going for parks, but not much of it because they have a 1.5 percent tax that supports them. Im for giving some to fire and police but not much because, theyve got a one-cent tax.

Im for giving some to the library. Theyve got plans for adding on a second story and no money to do it, Moore said.
Moore said he would support an impact fee of $1,000 to $1,500 on a 1,600-square-foot house but more than that would be enough to send developers toward Beebe and Vilonia. Both have the good school systems that have made Cabot desirable.
The impact fee study has been a long time coming. It started with a 2004 council resolution sponsored by Alderman David Polantz and approved by all members of the council that said an impact fee would be in place by January 2005.

The stakeholders committee grew out of the turmoil that followed that resolution. Builders, developers and bankers learned about the resolution after it passed and complained that they had been left out when impact fees would affect them the most.

Alderman James Glenn sponsored legislation to create the committee which met infrequently while the study was underway and has not met since it was completed.

Steen attended the city council meeting Monday night to ask when a meeting would be scheduled with Duncan and Associates so the stakeholders could go over the plan.

Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh an-swered that the firm would need at least two weeks notice.
And Steen responded that the notice should have already been given.

Steen spoke during the public comment portion at the end of the regular meeting. She reported that Conway has collected $2.4 million for parks and streets since its impact fee went into effect in September 2003, shortly after the state legislature passed a law allowing the fees.

The Conway builders who were opposed to the fee are paying, she told the council.
All the fussing, all the fuming, thats all over with, she said.