Cities Going Bust In Building Boom


Fair is fair.

The Idaho Legislature no longer can justify allowing only local governments in Ada County to assess impact fees when growth is strapping communities throughout the state.

(Bulletin to the Idaho Statehouse: Yes, there are booming communities beyond Ada County’s boundaries.)

Coeur d’Alene and Hayden were so desperate for money to extend sewers, roads, water and other infrastructure that they imposed impact fees, patterned after those in Ada County. They gambled that the fees would withstand a court test. And lost.

Now, a Coeur d’Alene City Council subcommittee has approved a moratorium on annexations, and Councilman Ron Edinger is prepared to call for a moratorium on building permits unless the Legislature provides relief.

The time to act is past due. Legislators should follow the House Revenue and Taxation Committee’s lead and approve legislation that permits local governments throughout the state to impose impact fees.

Even the Idaho Building Contractors Association sees the wisdom in passing this bill. In recent years, moratoriums in such disparate towns as Hayden, Athol and Harrison have caught the builders’ attention.

The foot-dragging already has cost Coeur d’Alene $470,494 and Hayden $350,000 in impact-fee revenue that the Idaho Supreme Court decided they collected illegally and must return.

The Idaho Development Impact Fee Act of 1992 gave only Ada County the right to charge developers for growth.

Impact fees are not a cure-all, and they should be handled carefully. Contractors and the Idaho Property Owners Association have raised valid concerns about them.

In successfully fighting three impact-fee bills last session, the contractors worried that local governments would impose them willy-nilly, making the cost of housing prohibitive. In California, impact fees have reached five figures in some areas.

Statewide standards in the new bill address that worry.

The taxpayers group fears that the fees will be tacked onto home prices, raising overall assessment values and, ultimately, taxes of that house and all similar ones around. But a new 3 percent cap on government budget increases should offset that concern.

The current legislation is two years late and about $820,000 short as far as Hayden and Coeur d’Alene are concerned. Growth in those two communities and nearby Post Falls appears to be slowing down.

But it addresses a serious inequity and provides some proof that legislators realize there’s life outside of Boise.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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