Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

TOP STORY >> Smaller fees are possible in Cabot

IN SHORT: City still undecided on proposals to charge builders to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Leader staff writer

A proposed impact fee in Cabot remains a political hot potato.

The rhetoric during the public meeting Monday evening for a proposed impact fee on building in Cabot was much the same as the meetings earlier in the year, when it was decided that if the fee is imposed, they wonít be as high as recommended by the experts.

Duncan Associates, the Texas firm that conducted the impact fee study at a cost to the city of $63,000, has recommended fees that would bring in about $2.3 million annually ó or several thousand dollars per new home ó to pay for such growth-related expenses as widening roads, putting in larger sewer pipes, adding on to the library and building fire stations.

Most council members have said they would never even consider collecting that much, that phasing in half that amount is more what they have in mind.

Itís unlikely the council will approve even a watered-down impact fee before the November elections.

The builders and developers said an impact fee would cut into their paychecks and could stifle residential and commercial growth, which would hurt the city much more than the impact fee would help. And the city residents who support the impact fee said they want it passed at the maximum amounts allowed by law so they donít have to pay for growth that has nothing to do with them.

The big difference between Mondayís public meeting and the Stakeholders Committee meetings held earlier was that seven of the cityís eight council members were present to hear what both sides have to say.

Only Alderman David Polantz, who sponsored the resolution calling for impact fees and the ordinance now on the table that would establish the fees, did not attend the public meeting.

The ordinance to impose the impact fees that is now before the council would set the fees at the amount recommended by the experts and would add up to $4,000 to the cost of a large, new home.

But the Stakeholders Commit-tee, made up of area residents involved in the building industry, was working with Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh the evening it made its recommendation on the fees that stand a better chance of being passed by the council.

Stumbaugh said Tuesday morning that even though Po-lantzís ordinance has been read twice, a new ordinance will likely be introduced this month that will contain the impact fee structure recommended by the Stakeholders Committee.

The mayor said the new ordinance will say the fees will be collected 90 days after the ordinance passes. The fees will be set at 25 percent of the recommended amounts for the library, parks, streets and wastewater and 100 percent for fire protection.
One year after the council ordinance setting the fees is passed, another 25 percent would be added for a total of 50 percent of the recommended amounts for parks, streets and wastewater and 100 percent for fire. Since it is generally believed that some form of impact fee will eventually pass, the biggest question is when.

Stumbaugh said Tuesday that the planning commission still hasnít given a recommendation on the fees. So the complete process has not been worked through yet.

Some residents, not involved in building, who attended the public meeting asked the council members present to forget that it is an election year and set impact fees that will do the most good for the city. But since the impact fee ordinance that will be passed has not yet been introduced, it is conceivable that the election will be over before it is passed.