Impact fee study targets roads for funding

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Whether new developments in Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake will help pay for road improvements, emergency services and other needs could be determined by the end of the summer.

Clarion Associates is working on a $20,000 study, funded by Routt County, to determine whether impact fees would work in parts of the county. The data-gathering phase of the study is nearly complete, Clarion principle Tina Axelrad said Thursday.

In the next month, the consultants will produce a draft report on impact-fee feasibility, with a public presentation planned for August.

A final report should be issued in early fall, at which point county commissioners can decide whether to pursue impact fees.

The key questions to answer are whether there is a need for impact fees and whether fees collected would be enough to fund those needs, Axelrad said.

"No decisions have been made," Axelrad said.

Impact fees are a one-time charge for a new house that helps pay for new facilities or services needed for new developments. They do not charge existing homes, and they are not property taxes.

Counties can finance improvements such as roads, water, sewer, parks, open space, libraries, police and fire safety services through impact fees, Axelrad said. The fees cannot be used to finance schools.

Colorado law requires that the fees be used only for needs created by new development and not for existing problems caused by past development. It also puts a time limit on using the fees to ensure the homeowners paying the fees also benefit from them.

In the Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach areas, existing districts provide fire safety services, as well as water and sewer services, which may mean impact fees are not needed for those services.

Funding roads, however, is a need that has "risen to the top" for both areas, Axelrad said.

"Roads are always a big one in rural counties in Colorado," she said. "That's where the question of impact fees comes up the most -- can we use impact fees to help build and improve roads to deal with new development?"

Routt County Planner Chad Phillips has been providing information to Clarion for the report. The report may find only a few needs that could be funded effectively with impact fees, he said.

"As you talk about what's already there and what you can actually spend impact fee money on and just what makes sense, (for instance) are you going to put a dent in the problem with the impact money, it will be a pretty short list," Phillips said.

No public meetings are scheduled for the next month, but residents with input on the proposed fees are welcome to share it with the county, Phillips said.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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