March 15, 1996 in Nation/World

Senate Oks Bill Legalizing Impact Fees Cities, Particularly In N. Idaho, Rejoice At News; Batt Says He Is Likely To Sign The Legislation

Betsy Z. Russell Ken Olsen Contribute Staff writer
 

North Idaho won the authority to charge development impact fees Thursday, on a surprisingly strong 31-4 Senate vote.

The last-minute approval, just one day before the Legislature plans to adjourn for the session, makes impact fees legal statewide. They’re now legal only in Ada County.

“I’m just very delighted,” said Post Falls Mayor Jim Hammond. Impact fees will help Post Falls cope with its explosive growth, he said, “so growth doesn’t have a negative impact on people already living here.”

“It’s been a long time to finally get some good news of this kind,” said Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell.

Gov. Phil Batt, in an interview Thursday afternoon, said he’s inclined to sign the bill.

“I have always said that if the laws are good for Boise, they ought to be good for the rest of the state,” Batt said.

For four straight years, bills to expand impact fees beyond Ada County have passed the House, only to be blocked in the Senate Local Government Committee.

When the vote came down Thursday, even that committee’s chairman, Sen. Jerry Thorne, R-Nampa, voted for the bill. “Well, it’s a foregone conclusion, and the city of Nampa wants ‘em just as bad as anybody else,” Thorne said. “There’s no sense in being an obstructionist.”

All of North Idaho’s senators supported the bill, which earlier passed the House.

Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene, told the Senate, “Good senators, I think its time has come - let’s support it.”

Cities across the state are “ecstatic,” said Scott McDonald, executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities. “Where they have a lot of growth, they need it desperately.”

Lobbyist Chuck Lempesis, who represents Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Kootenai County, said, “I think it was just the right thing to do, and the right time to do it. It, of course, was the city of Coeur d’Alene’s top priority and the city of Post Falls’ greatest concern.”

Coeur d’Alene and Hayden both tried to impose impact fees without specific state authority. Both were sued and forced to return the money.

Under the new bill, cities and other government agencies will be held to strict standards on when impact fees may be assessed. They will have to show that the money is needed specifically for services for the new development.

Sen. Stan Hawkins, R-Ucon, led a move to amend the bill to include schools. But his last attempt to do that failed earlier this week, and senators said Thursday that trying again probably would sink the bill.

Ron Rankin, president of the Idaho State Property Owners Association, opposed the bill because it lacks a clause he got added to earlier versions specifying that the fees wouldn’t be counted as part of the assessed value of a home.

“This thing was sneaked through,” Rankin said. “We were blind-sided.”

But Sen. Evan Frasure, R-Pocatello, was asked about the missing clause during the debate by Sen. Gordon Crow, R-Hayden. Frasure said the clause was unnecessary.

“That’s currently what happens,” he said. “They’re not included.”

Crow said he was impressed that home-builders, real estate interests, cities, counties and chambers of commerce across the state all supported the bill.

“If there were any inherent problems to it, they wouldn’t be supporting it,” he said. “It’s pretty monumental.” , DataTimes MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: IMPACT FEES In order to charge impact fees, a city or agency must: Prepare a capital improvements plan for such basics as roads, parks, water systems and sewers. Some North Idaho cities, including Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, already have plans in place. Determine the proportionate share of the cost of serving a new development. No development would have to pay more than its share in fees. Spend the money specifically to benefit the development - within five years of collecting the fee.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer Staff writer Ken Olsen contributed to this report.

Cut in Spokane edition

This sidebar appeared with the story: IMPACT FEES In order to charge impact fees, a city or agency must: Prepare a capital improvements plan for such basics as roads, parks, water systems and sewers. Some North Idaho cities, including Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, already have plans in place. Determine the proportionate share of the cost of serving a new development. No development would have to pay more than its share in fees. Spend the money specifically to benefit the development - within five years of collecting the fee.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer Staff writer Ken Olsen contributed to this report.


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