Council to discuss impact fees

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— Impact fees, the controversial city fees charged to new development, are not going away anytime soon, but they could be reduced for all homes and rebated entirely for affordable ones.

City Council will discuss tonight whether to reduce the impact fees, particularly those fees dedicated to open space, to take some of the financial burden off homebuilders.

The council will also discuss whether to rebate impact fees for smaller affordable homes out of the city's general fund.

The fees, which currently come out to $4,454 for a single-family detached home and $1,186 per 1,000 square feet of an office building, have been challenged since their adoption June 19.

While the City Council was not swayed by local business people and homebuilders who wanted them to eliminate the fees entirely, they have been pushed toward reducing them.

"If it's impacting people who are trying to make it here, I think it's incumbent upon us to take another look," said Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell.

The council, which chose the levels of the fees after receiving the recommendation of consultant Tischler and Associates, asked City Manager Paul Hughes to check into a potential reduction in the fees.

The fees, which go toward capital improvements generated by growth, can be put to one of four broad uses: parks, city buildings and equipment, public safety and transit.

Within the parks category, funds could be diverted to trails, parks and recreation and open space.

Hughes said he found that open space was the only category where the city could realistically reduce funding, thereby reducing the fees.

The other categories "didn't offer the same degree of choice," he said.

Hughes will present the council with four options for a reduction in the fees, giving the members the chance to decide whether to reduce the fees dedicated to open space by 25, 50, 75 or 100 percent.

If the council were to reduce open space impact fees by 100 percent, it would save a single-family detached home $1,133 out of the total $4,454 fee. The council may also decide to keep the fees as they are.

The city has had a great deal of success getting grants to fund the acquisition of open space in the past, but grant money is not a stable enough form of funding, Hughes said.

Because the grant process is competitive, those funds could be denied the city in the future, Hughes said.

The city currently has 1,726 acres of "passive" open space not used for active recreation, according to Tischler's report.

Active recreation spaces include Howelsen Hill Park and Memorial Park, Hughes said.

In terms of rebating the fees for affordable homes, City Attorney Tony Lettunich has drafted a proposal that would take home size into account when determining whether a person or family could get a rebate.

The family would also have to comply with income requirements.

Details of the plan were unavailable at press time.

The city will have to examine its budget to determine how it will be able to pay for the rebates, City Councilman Paul Strong said.

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