Editorial missed the mark

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— Rarely in human history has mankind endured an editorial as bad as the one you wrote on impact fees and published in last Sunday's Pilot.
Let's start with the statement that the city has never made a strong case for impact fees. Ridiculous. The fact is that growth does not pay its own way and that all new growth is subsidized. This is especially true in the absence of a property tax (such as here in Steamboat Springs). This is a nationally accepted fact and many communities across the country have used impact fees and excise taxes to reduce the amount of subsidy that new growth receives. An historical examination of the city's budget provides ample evidence that it is true here. Back in the 1980s, when the resident population was relatively stable, sales tax paid the bill sand the city was financially sound. During the '90s when the resident population began to boom, and with it the demand for more services, the cities financial picture started to change despite the dramatic increase in summer tourism. Today the city has fallen behind on capitol projects and is looking at cutting services.
The previous City Council recognized all this and hired a consultant to prove it and come up with a dollar amount of the subsidy received by new growth. The impact fees are based on the actual cost of services and, by law, cannot exceed the amount of the subsidy. Given that the impact fees do not cover the cost of roads, schools, or affordable housing, you would think that the Development/Real Estate interests that are fighting any offset of their subsidies would be happy that they are still receiving some subsidies. But no, they sued the city. What's interesting is that the suit did not claim that the impact fees were unfair, the suit was over how many signatures it takes to force a ballot question.
And what's this about impact fees for single family residences being based on sales tax? Your editorial claims that the impact fee for a single family home is $4,300 (wrong it's $4,000) regardless of the size and that's because it is assumed that the people who live in a large home will pay the same amount of sales tax as someone who lives in a small home. Where did you come up with this? The assumption is that one person, on average, will use the police and fire departments, the parks and recreation department, the transit system, or other city service that requires a "city facility" about as much as the next person regardless of the size of house he or she lives in. It has absolutely nothing to do with sales tax!
That you would side with the Development/Real Estate folks on this issue is not surprising. After all, more is better if you own a newspaper and sell lots of advertising to Realtors. What is surprising is that you apparently don't know what you're talking about.
The real question is why City Council has reopened this can of worms and appointed a committee to re-evaluate impact fees. The city needs another committee about as bad as we need more hotels. Besides, if the Development/Real Estate folks want to meet and discuss an alternative they can. Why involve the city staff and tax dollars? I fear it's because the current City Council is more sensitive to the inevitable cries of poverty and oppression from the Development/Real Estate folks than the previous City Council was.
Jim Engleken
Steamboat Springs

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