County adopts new transportation plan
In adopting a plan for the future of transportation in Garfield County, the county commissioners also took a big step toward regulating the oil and gas industry.Key to funding the county’s new 20-year road improvement plan is imposing impact fees both on new housing developments and industrial activity.While the commissioners debated both the upsides and downsides of imposing impact fees, they also came to the conclusion that applying the fees to the booming natural gas industry will mean requiring county permits for every well drilled in the county.The commissioners agreed to establish the fees and adopt the transportation plan Monday. The plan, prepared by LSC Transportation Consultants Inc. of Colorado Springs, will set the direction for development of county roadways over the next 20 years. After evaluating the county’s road system, the consultants scored each road for condition and level of service. They also estimated the cost of improvements that could go as high as $88 million over a 20-year period.According to the report, the most deficient roads are in Rifle and Silt, chiefly because of population growth in those areas. The report also recommended imposing impact fees on future residential subdivisions to fund improvements or new roads serving the development. Fees charged for typical single-family homes in nearby areas include $1,500 per home in Mesa County, $1,600 in Eagle County, and $3,500 in Pitkin County.LSC suggested impact fees for single-family homes would range from $1,200 to $2,640, depending on where they are located. Fees for industrial activity have not yet been established. However, the commissioners spoke of a $1,500 fee for each well drilled in the county.County attorney Don DeFord pointed out that in order to impose the impact fees on the natural gas industry, there must be a permit system in place in the county’s land use planning process. He also said that, by law, the county is restricted in how much it can regulate that industry. In addition, the fees and permits must apply to other industries operating in the county, such as timber and gravel extraction.While both Commissioners Larry McCown and Trési Houpt voted in favor of the impact fees – with Commissioner John Martin casting a no vote – McCown worried that they could drive up housing prices in the county.”My concern is they will do to the overall price of housing in the county. The developers will pass on the costs to new buyers,” he said.”Without the fees who should bear the cost of growth and development?” countered Houpt.Martin suggested an alternative to impact fees was raising property taxes to increase funding for county road projects. “There would be a lot of screamin’ and squawkin’,” he said. “It’s a tough sell either way.”Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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