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Legislators Kill N. Idaho Impact Fees Panhandle City Officials Clearly Disappointed

Forget impact fees in North Idaho.

After a hearing that stretched long after dark, the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee killed impact fee legislation Thursday on a 4-3 vote.

The measure would have allowed cities and counties statewide to charge developers for the impacts their projects have on public services.

By killing the bill, the committee opted to continue impact fee authority only in Ada County.

“This just makes me sick to my stomach,” Coeur d’Alene city Councilwoman Nancy Sue Wallace said afterward.

“Don’t be sick,” Councilwoman Dixie Reid told her. “We lost closer.”

More than a dozen city and county officials from around the state attended the hearing, including a batch from North Idaho. All were clearly disappointed.

“They did not vote to help us at all,” said Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell.

“It’s disheartening that they really aren’t hearing the concerns of the local communities,” said Post Falls Mayor Jim Hammond.

“Maybe by the year 2000, the Idaho Legislature will be willing to give local control to communities to deal with their future,” said Sandpoint Mayor David Sawyer. “It may take that long to get one vote.”

Among the groups lining up in support of this year’s measure were the Idaho Building Contractors Association, real estate and business groups and cities and counties.

Sen. Stan Hawkins, R-Ucon, said, “I’ve been here long enough to know that when everyone’s in agreement, you’d better watch out, because there’s usually somebody out there who’s not.”

Sean Strickler of the building contractors said his association not only supports the legislation - it wrote it.

Now, cities and counties across the state are charging various fees for parks and other impacts without any rules to govern them and often without any legal authority, Strickler said.

The legislation on the books for Ada County sets strict conditions on when impact fees can be charged, mandates that the fees be proportionate to the impacts caused by the new developments and requires that the money be spent in the same area where the growth occurs.

Sawyer told the committee that Sandpoint has been charging a 3 percent fee on new development to improve parks, but it is being challenged. “We will probably be challenged again and will probably lose all the money we’ve collected,” he said.

“Our parks - they’re at the minimum standards,” Sawyer said, because growth is putting such a strain on them.

Sen. Tim Tucker, D-Porthill, the only North Idaho member of the committee, urged lawmakers to support the bill. “I think we’ve got to do something,” he said. “We need to address the impacts on our cities. What we’re doing by not doing anything is fostering chaos.”

Tucker has opposed past impact fee measures because he wants them to include schools - this one didn’t - but he said he had decided he should support this proposal anyway.

Backers asked the committee to put the bill up for amendments so a few changes could be made as suggested by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, Idaho’s leading business lobby.

Earlier this week, the committee killed a version of the bill that included the association’s changes.

Chairman Sen. Jerry Thorne, R-Nampa, said, “I think we returned that bill … because it imposed impact fees. Are we ready to do that to the people of the state of Idaho?”

Sen. Evan Frasure, R-Pocatello, answered yes. Though he has opposed impact fees in the past, Frasure said the myriad of other fees now is far worse. And he said the bill, refined after being rejected each of the last four years, is a good one. “I think we’ve finally got something we can live with,” he said.

Frasure’s motion to send the bill to the full Senate for a vote died, 3-4. Then Hawkins’ motion to kill the bill passed, 4-3.

“We will be back next year,” Wallace said.

Tom Taggart, Kootenai County administrator, said, “We’ve got a zoo out there with no regulation. Here’s something that sets the guidelines and it’s actually good policy.”

Coeur d’Alene and Hayden tried to impose impact fees without state legislation. Both were sued and had to return the money.

, DataTimes


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