Rifle continues to waive development fees to help stimulate growth
Ever since Rifle opted in 2019 to continue to waive certain development fees in order to spur growth, developers have saved about $347,063, according to the city.
A portion of those funds, according to the city, usually in turn are given to the parks and recreation department.
Rifle City Council on Wednesday approved to once again extend the waiver fee until April 2021 in order to help avoid hindrances upon any development currently taking place.
“We have seen our lumber costs build up significantly as a result of COVID,” developer Hal Hultquist told city councilors. “We’ve seen delays in the delivery of components that built these units… Quite frankly, we’re running behind as scheduled right now.”
Hultquist, who’s currently developing housing units in the Willow Ranch area just west of Deerfield Park, said the increasing costs are causing concern and that if the city opted not to extend the waiver, “We would have to consider stopping the project once again.”
“On numerous occasions we are working on a very tight margin here,” he said. “We bought this property years ago and have not done anything that we couldn’t get the margin large enough to make it have any sense for us to continue.”
According to the city, however, delays in a utility master plan rate study that would give the city a better idea of what reasonable fees they should actually charge developers has caused some hesitation.
“Let’s just continue this,” Mayor Barbra Clifton said. “It’s only three or four more months, and then let’s actually get something that makes sense that’s based on an actual study and let’s go from there.”
Forgoing such revenue, however, has already ramped up production as city documents show 40 additional units to the city. Production from those units have already helped amass $216,615 in total use tax collections.
Those tax revenues, however, go straight into the general fund.
“But at the same time the city is providing services to these new homes and we do need compensation for that,” Councilor Clint Hostettler said. “We should set a deadline for getting this rate study done this year.”
Councilor Theresa Hamilton said, however, that increasing development fees now would create a level of inconsistency.
“That creates a business environment that’s difficult to navigate,” she said. “And while I’m not loving the idea of extending (the fee waiver), I think if there’s any kind of consistency we can provide for anybody and any time right now, I think we need to for people that are investing.”
For the most part, however, the city’s parks and recreation department has already taken a financial hit in recent memory. The proposed 2021 budget adopted earlier in December took $1 million from the parks and recreation department — money set aside to help defray costs from the city’s $8 million pool renovation project in 2019 – and reallocated toward their capital improvements account.
Meanwhile, housing units built without paying the fees still get to use various amenities provided by the city, Condie noted.
“They get to use the street, they get to use the park, who’s paying for that maintenance and upkeep?” he said.
Clifton said, however, that portions of the city’s penny sales taxes already go toward streets and parks.
“They have a separate, independent funding source,” she said.
The vote passed 5-1, with Condie voting no to extend the fee waiver.
The city plans to have a utility master plan completed between February and March 2021.
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