Council may take second look at traffic impact fees
Glenwood Springs City Council tonight will discuss lifting a development moratorium in the south part of town, but on the possible condition that the city consider again imposing traffic impact fees on new growth.The moratorium was adopted at the start of the year because city officials saw a need to first complete some planning to meet future traffic, sewage treatment and other needs. City staff members are recommending that council lift the moratorium.However, they qualify that recommendation based on several conditions, such as the city pursuing improvements to the 27th Street intersections at South Grand and Midland avenues, and other road projects. And they urge reconsideration of traffic impact fees on new development as one means of helping pay for such projects.The city charged such fees beginning in 1994, but ended the program in 1998 due to several concerns.”From what I remember, what we had wasn’t working,” said former mayor Sam Skramstad, who served on council when it revoked the fees.One problem with the ordinance, as he recalls it, was that it required the fees to be spent on traffic projects in the areas where fees were generated. That prevented the city from spending it in places with big traffic needs but little growth, such as downtown, he said.The fees also drew opposition out of fear that they were deterring commercial growth.”It was felt that some of the burden fell unfairly on businesses and that businesses were being penalized for creating jobs,” said Dave Merritt, a current council member who in 1998 was serving on the city Planning and Zoning Commission.Merritt believes it’s worth taking another look at the fees as a means of helping pay for traffic impacts, but he said it will be a challenge to come up with what is considered an equitable formula.He described the formula used previously as “very complex.” City community development director Andrew McGregor believes it also was equitable and legally defensible. He also said that coming up with a new, acceptable proposal wouldn’t be easy. “I don’t think it’s simply a matter of taking what we have and tinkering with it. I think we have to go back and do a lot of analysis,” he said.He thinks it’s fair to ask new development to pay for its impacts. “But it’s always a political charged proposition,” he said.McGregor said it’s valid to ask whether the fees might serve as a disincentive and drive development elsewhere. But most neighboring communities have imposed such fees in recent years, he said.”The playing field may have leveled a great deal,” he said.The fees would apply to development within cities. The city already has the ability to negotiate with developers to fund traffic impacts in the case of land being annexed into town.But within town, “while sales tax is collected after development occurs, the burden falls heavily on the city’s limited sales tax funds,” McGregor and several other city staff members wrote to council in urging reconsideration of the impact fees.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
City Council is scheduled to discuss the south Glenwood building moratorium at a 5 p.m. work session and in its regular meeting; starts at 7 p.m. Among other regular-meeting agenda items, it is scheduled to discuss possibly designating $146,433 in state funds for a bike/pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River at Midland Avenue in West Glenwood. The money originally had been granted for a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 70 at Devereux Road. Council also will hold a 6 p.m. work session with the city Transportation Commission. All council meetings will be held at City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.