Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Second Verse: Rogers Debates Impact Fees

The City of Rogers has had $125 million in water and sewer improvement costs over the last 10 years and is facing at least $105 million in need over the next decade. The Public Works Committee of the City Council seems to think impact fees are a fair method of financing this construction, but the Northwest Arkansas Homebuilders Association disagrees.

Rogers has had impact fees for years, and there has certainly been no negative impact on residential or commercial construction. In the recent legislative session, Republican State Senator David Bisbee, a Rogers contractor, pushed through a law requiring City Council approval and requiring refunds of previously collected fees. Bisbee, you will recall, evicted 54 Hispanic families from his Monte Ne Mobile Home Park in 2004 rather than making improvements to the water and sewer system there, so he is an expert on water and sewer improvement costs.

Bill Burckart, who assisted Bisbee in drafting the legislation, spoke on behalf of the Northwest Arkansas Homebuilders Association and dismissed the City’s proposed fee study. “I don’t think equitable is what we’ve seen in this study,” he said. Instead, he suggested a Developers’ Free Lunch Plan, using the city sales tax revenues allocated for road improvements caused by growth for a special capital improvement fund that also would subsidize the water and sewer costs added by developers. The impact fees would cost homeowners $18 a month, and he said that would make housing unaffordable. The average price of a home in Benton County last year was $191,759.

Tom Gould, the City’s fee consultant, defended the fees as a reasonable way to finance growth. Without impact fees, capital construction costs created by new development would be financed exclusively through rate increases, which would put the burden of growth on all residents, not just those who have created it, he said. “Most people look at impact fees as a way of growth paying for growth.”

Developers in Rogers should establish a Benton County branch of the Free Lunch Club created by Fayetteville developers and realtors to dump their development costs on existing residents in older homes.

No comments:

Post a Comment