Committee to look at impact fee alternatives |

Committee to look at impact fee alternatives

— Despite questions over clarifying the current impact fee ordinance, the Steamboat Springs City Council agreed Tuesday night to create a committee designed to find alternatives to it.

Spurred by a lawsuit over the fees, council unanimously voted to create an eight-member committee to look at alternatives that would be fair and equitable, generate as much revenue as the current fees and can be adopted by law.

“I felt it was an opportunity to engage the community with the agreement that the lawsuit dropped,” City Council President Kathy Connell said. “And (an opportunity) to spend the time, work and legal cost on something productive (rather) than on a battle.”

The lawsuit filed by five petitioners shortly after the fees were passed in June argued the fees were not justified and should go to the people for a vote.

The council’s agreement Tuesday night does not repeal the current impact fees, but that could happen if voters passed an alternative to the impact fees in November. To come up with an alternative to go on this year’s ballot, city staff said a plan should be presented by the beginning of July.

The council also passed that the committee draw from one person in the residential development, commercial development, financial, realty and transportation community and three residents in the community at large. With the exception of an additional community member, the demographics were based on the make-up of the original community impact fee committee in 1994.

But before agreeing to form a committee, Councilman Bud Romberg questioned the legitimacy of creating a citizens group when cloudiness hangs over the current impact fee.

“I’m not sure I would want to serve on a committee and come up with an alternative to something that is not specific,” Romberg said during council discussion.

With last fall’s passage of state Senate Bill 15, which authorized impact fees but set limitations on them, City Attorney Tony Lettunich said a cloud remains over what is allowable.

The major concern is that the state Legislature stated impact fees could not be imposed on developments that have already had planning approval. Under the city’s ordinance, impact fees are taken from developments receiving building permits, even ones that received planning approval years before.

“There are a lot of potential projects for which there is some doubt if impact fees can be collected. I would like the uncertainty to be removed,” Lettunich said.

Although Lettunich said the council could adjust the current impact fees to the state Legislature, the need still exists to look at the problem in the long run. And that is something the citizens committee is charged to do.

“There are ways to (almost) put a Band-Aid on the current impact fees,” Lettunich said. “But that is not going to answer the need to look at a global, long-term solution to this problem.”

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