Impact fees only part of housing discussion
A plan to lower the impact fee charged to developers for city fire and ambulance services by about $500 per new residential unit is another step in the right direction on the affordable housing front, Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba says.
But, even combined with a reduction to water and sewer system fees granted earlier this year, it still only goes so far in the city’s effort to provide incentives for developers to build more housing that would be attainable for middle-income earners, he said.
That’s the subject of a broader conversation about housing policies for the city, Gamba said.
“If you look at the poll the city just conducted, the second highest concern among residents was affordable housing,” Gamba said of a recent poll meant to determine if voters would be willing to renew a special 1 percent city “acquisitions and improvements” sales tax this November.
Even with the recent fee adjustments, the cost per unit to pay for impacts to everything from public utilities, emergency services, parks and schools, comes to around $22,000, Gamba said.
“My own thought on this is that, between that, the cost of raw land, the cost of construction and the value of a home that can be sold … there isn’t enough deferential,” the second-term council member and current mayor said.
City Council, at its regular meeting tonight, is set to approve a reduction in fire and emergency impact fees from roughly $1,800 per unit to $1,290 per unit. The move follows an adjustment earlier this year to the formula used to assess water and wastewater system impact fees aimed at lowering the rate for smaller rental units.
New City Manager Debra Figueroa reminded council recently that, to truly address the housing issue, a broader discussion about the various ways to encourage more affordable housing needs to occur. That’s likely to be the subject of an upcoming work session for council members.
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said at the July 21 council meeting that he could go along with the suggested new fire and EMS impact fees, which a recent study determined was more in line with the actual cost to keep up with system demands.
However, “I really don’t think our current fees are out of line,” Bershenyi said. “I grow more and more concerned when developers come before us with a continual lament that their project is not penciling out.
“It’s hard for me to reduce fees when we don’t put in place some kind of requirement to make sure they are actually providing (lower-cost housing),” he said.
Whether that’s a negotiated means of providing rent controls or some other mechanism to ensure long-term affordability, it all needs to be part of that larger discussion, he said.
Gamba, on the other hand, said he would be willing to consider going so far as eliminating impact fees for a period of time to bring more housing stock into Glenwood Springs.
The rationale, he said, is that new residents paying for utilities and buying goods in town generate user revenue and sales taxes. That in turn will offset any loss in impact fees, he said.
“I don’t want to give away the farm, but I think these concerns about paying for system improvements can be addressed in another way,” Gamba said.
“A family that moves in here and spends $1,500 a month on goods is bringing more money into community,” he said.
Another mechanism the city has been looking at to streamline the development review process by rewriting the land-use code is also on tonight’s agenda for discussion. A work session with consultants Clarion Associates, which is working on the code rewrite, is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“It’s a long process to redo the code, but it’s another way to reduce the uncertainty when someone wants to build,” Gamba said.
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