April 29, 2007 in Idaho

Consultant to explain impact fees

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Colorado consultant will meet with Kootenai County commissioners and other local taxing district representatives next month to explain how to start charging impact fees to help pay for the area’s unprecedented growth.

Tom Pippin of BBC Research and Consulting of Denver is tentatively scheduled to give an impact fee crash course May 10. That’s the same company Coeur d’Alene hired to conduct a recent housing study.

“He will lay out what we need to do, the rules and the cost,” said Commissioner Todd Tondee, who took office in January and made establishing impact fees one of his top priorities.

The fees – charges assessed on residential and commercial building permits – have become a hot topic as Kootenai County experiences heavy development, especially in rural areas.

Pippin met April 19 with the county’s impact fee committee to give a similar how-to presentation. Now, Tondee said he wants all the taxing districts affected by growth to hear the presentation.

The county’s idea is for the nearly 20 taxing districts to contribute money, perhaps $10,000 each, to a study to determine how much development is affecting county infrastructure such as roads, parks and fire protection.

The study would sort out how much revenue the fee system should generate and show how the county could spend the money.

Kootenai County would collect the fees and dole out the money to participating taxing districts. That’s because state law prohibits taxing districts, such as highway districts, that don’t have the authority to make laws from collecting impact fees.

Tondee said he doesn’t expect all the taxing districts to participate, but he wants to ensure that they have the opportunity.

East Side Highway District Commission Chairman Dick Edinger told the county commissioners in an April 23 meeting that he is excited for the opportunity.

“We’re very interested,” Edinger said, adding that he hopes the idea stays on the fast track.

Lynn Humphreys of the Post Falls Highway District also is anxious to have another way to help pay for the impact of development on roads.

“It’s only one tool,” Humphreys said at the county commission meeting. “It’s not going to solve all the problems in the world. But we aren’t able to keep up with all the new growth.”

After Pippin’s presentation, Tondee said the county commission will decide whether to hire a consultant to conduct the study, which would likely take two months. It could be six months to a year before the county begins charging the fees.

The county also would have to appoint an advisory committee to make recommendations regarding the fees to the county commission. About 40 percent of that committee’s members would belong to the business and development community affected by the additional fees on building permits, Tondee said.

If the Kootenai County commission votes to start charging impact fees, it would become the first county in the state to do so. Many Idaho cities, including Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Hayden and Rathdrum, assess the fees.

Kootenai County was instrumental in getting the Legislature to pass a bill this year that allows counties to work with local taxing districts to collect impact fees. Previously, counties could collaborate only with highway districts. The new law, which takes effect July 1, will allow counties to partner with fire, water and irrigation districts – entities directly affected by growth.

The debate of impact fees was central in last year’s county commission election. All candidates agreed that impact fees needed at least a study, but the sitting commissioners up for re-election – Gus Johnson and Katie Brodie – argued impact fees weren’t a cure-all. They said the county would still have to contribute tax dollars to keep up with growth, and impact fees were just a “sound bite” with their challengers.

Both Johnson and Brodie lost their seats. Tondee ousted Johnson while Commissioner Rich Piazza beat Brodie.

Impact fees weren’t popular in the 2004 county commission race when candidate Mike Piper, who oversaw several conservation watchdog groups, brought up impact fees in nearly every conversation. His message never resonated, and he was defeated by Brodie.

Now with hundreds of new homes on the landscape, talk of impact fees is everywhere.


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