Leader Blues

Friday, April 18, 2008

TOP STORY > >Cabot council could increase impact fee

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

A special committee will recommend to the Cabot City Council on Monday night that the impact fee on new construction should increase to the next scheduled level. But the committee will also recommend that wastewater’s part of the fee should be taken out and that no other increases should be allowed for 24 months during which the council would have to decide if the impact fee will stay, or if there is a better way to pay for the costs of a growing population.

In November 2007, the city council approved a six-month moratorium on collection of the impact fee to see if it would revive the declining building industry. The fear was that builders were moving to other areas like Ward and Austin which are inside the Cabot School District but don’t have the impact fee.

If the council approves reinstating the impact fee with wastewater included, the fee on a 3,000-3,900-square-foot house will increase from $1,272 to $2,196. Alderman Tom Arm-strong, who was on the council in 2006 and was the only member to vote against the fee, still doesn’t want it. “If we don’t abolish this, we’re cutting our nose off to spite our face,” he said when the council approved the moratorium.

Information available at Cabot Public Works shows that residential construction is down, but it started going down before the impact fee went into effect in November 2006.

Two years earlier, 2004, was the boom year for home construction in Cabot. Building permits for 500 houses were issued that year, compared to 288 in 2002, 374 in 2003, 419 in 2005, 400 in 2006 and 183 in 2007, which was after the impact fee was passed.

However, of the 400 permits issued in 2006, 122 were in November, just before collection of the impact fee was started, for houses that would be built in 2007. Although residential construction has slowed, commercial, which increases the city’s tax base, is on the rise. Nine commercial permits were issued in 2002, 25 in 2003, 20 in 2004 (the boom year for residential), 60 in 2005, 58 in 2006 and 67 in 2007.

In Ward, seven of the newest housing developments have provided homes for the estimated 1,000 new residents who have moved in since the 2000 census.In 2000, Ward’s population was 2,582. Now it is estimated at 3,500.

Austin Mayor Bernie Cham-berlain estimates her city’s population at 1,800, triple the number from the 2000 census.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams says the city is still growing. For a time there were hundreds of homes on the market, but that number has dwindled and now more building permits are being issued. Nineteen permits were issued in February and April has seen an average of one a day, he said.