Impact fees up for discussion

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To fund road improvements, emergency services and other necessities in areas such as Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake, the county may implement impact fees. Residents will have a chance to comment on the proposal at a meeting scheduled for Monday evening.

Routt County has hired Clarion Associates to conduct a $20,000 study on whether impact fees are a good idea for parts of the county.

The fees allow residents to fund improvements in their neighborhoods without sharing the cost with the rest of the county. They can take many forms, ranging from a charge at the time a building permit is issued to a toll road.

A feasibility study saves money and time, Routt County Planner Chad Phillips said, and is a "first baby step" toward improved roads and other amenities in these growing areas.

This meeting is the first of three and should provide helpful information for landowners in Stagecoach and Steamboat Lake areas, whether or not they have built homes yet, as well as government officials and others interested in the fees, Phillips said.

The meeting will begin with a short presentation from the consultants, followed by discussion and public comment.

Impact fees are an option for Stagecoach and the Steamboat Lake subdivisions because the areas were platted in the early 1970s for very high densities, which neither has realized -- a unique situation, Phillips said.

Now, mechanisms exist to make developers pay for roads and other infrastructure as they develop an area, but those mechanisms did not exist when the two areas were platted.

"Because of that potential density in those areas, and really without existing infrastructure and without a mechanism for collecting money for that infrastructure, the county is looking at different means" to fund improvements, Phillips said.

Other areas where the fees could be useful include 35-acre developments accessed by minimal-maintenance county roads.

Impact fees, which are permitted by Colorado law, do not need to be approved by voters. Local governments are required to use the funds quickly so those who pay will benefit.

Impact fees are not a new idea in the county. In 1996, a ballot question asking voters to fund improvement of Routt County Road 14 was defeated.

At Monday's meeting, county officials hope to hear how residents feel about the fees.

"For the most part, we'd really like to hear from the citizens," he said.

The feasibility study is scheduled to be completed in July, then county commissioners will consider whether the impact fees are a good idea.

The impact fees public meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday in the Commissioner's Hearing Room of the Courthouse Annex in downtown Steamboat Springs.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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