Should they or shouldn’t they?

Killeen City Council members will determine whether developers of large projects should be fully responsible to pay impact fees — a one-time fee assessed to recover infrastructure costs associated with a new development.

The city of Killeen began the discussion nine years ago and is now moving forward with its study.

According to the American Planning Association, “the fees typically require cash payments in advance for the completion of development and are based on a calculation derived from the cost of the facility and the nature and size.”

Religious structures and school districts are exempted from impact fees. Impact fees do not affect current structures in need of renovations or modifications.

Statewide, the fees are regulated by Chapter 395 of the Texas Local Government Code, which says the payment may be imposed only to pay “constructing capital improvements … including and limited to the construction contract price; surveying and engineering fees, and land acquisition costs, including land purchases.”

Locally, the Killeen Public Works Department is working with Fort Worth based engineering consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. “as its impact fee advisory committee,” according to Danielle Singh, Killeen’s interim public works director.

Hilary Shine, the city’s executive director of communications, said talks of impact fees began in 2010.

In 2016, according to former Councilman Richard ‘Dick’ Young, the Killeen City Council approved looking into impact fees as a possible new source of revenue to help pay for new road and water-sewer infrastructure. Young served as a council member from 2001 to 2007 and in 2016-17.

In a April 2019 email to the Herald, Shine stated that on Feb. 21, 2017, the “city council informally directs staff to halt process,” with no reason stated but formally brought back discussions seven days later.

On April 2, during a workshop meeting, council members were presented with a timeline and progress update on a impact fee study, which is slated for completion in July.

Between July and August 2019, a final draft of its study report should be completed and a public hearing would be scheduled.

Shine said it is too early say what rates would be and “the study will help determine maximum appropriate fees, subject to City Council approval and growth projections. Revenue will be dependent on growth and development occurring.”

Commissioner Ramon Alvarez of the Planning and Zoning Commission said an impact fee can benefit the community in the future.

“Impact fee is basically a fee for an impact to an area. Those funds paid would stay in that (service) area. So meaning later on maintenance required for the sewer lines, the water lines, the streets; that money can be used for those types of projects,” Alvarez said.

Last week, the Herald initiated contact by various correspondence with current city council members and council candidates on their opinion of impact fees.

Here’s what they had to say:

District 1 representative Shirley Fleming said impact fees should solely be the responsibility of the contractor and the “highest percentage allowed.”

District 2 candidate Mellisa Brown thinks the cost should be the builder’s responsibility.

“We are asking citizens to pay an additional maintenance fee on their utility bill, developers should also be required to pay an extra fee for new infrastructure that will be required to facilitate their profits,” Brown said.

William Baumgartner, also running for the District 2 seat, thinks impact fees should be implemented.

“No matter what the city charges for the fee ... they (builders) shouldn’t be getting a free pass every time a new subdivision is built. Their “vision” shouldn’t stop with the roads in the subdivision but also the road or roads leading into it,” he said in an email.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kilpatrick, a candidate for the District 3 seat, called impact fees “a tool in the city toolbox to increase tax revenue.”

“It must be done deliberately and in a planned manner. While it is not rocket science, it is complex and must be understood to properly set up the number and location of the zones, establishment of the fees by categories, and align the impact fee policies with the FLUM, Thoroughfare and Zoning plans,” he said in an email.

Kilpatrick’s opponent for the District 3 seat Tolly James Jr. said in an email response to the Herald, “Why do we need impact fees, is a better question.”

“The answer is because we do not want to do anything with our current spending and our revenue flow over the last few years has been modest at best,” he wrote. “All fees start small but over time can become too large. Let’s not look to impact fees or transportation fees as a cash cow solution to both new and old infrastructure needs. Let’s be about bringing in industry partners that can assist us in bringing in new revenue.”

District 4 Councilman Steve Harris, who is running for re-election, believes that the responsibility should be solely on developers.

“I believe now is the time for them to begin to contribute and for the city to stop relying on the citizens’ pocket books to fund everything,” he said in an email.

Harris’ opponent Brockley Moore who served with Young in council in 2016 said he believes the cost should be shared with both homeowners and contractors.

Councilman-at-large Butch Menking said impact fees are “an effective way to offset infrastructure costs. The system levels the playing field for all developers interested in helping build out our city.”

Councilman-at-large Juan Rivera had no comment citing impact fees are “an ongoing issue and want to look at the matter on both sides.”

District 2 Councilwoman Debbie Nash-King, who is seeking re-election, District 3 candidate Sandra Blankenship and Councilman-at-large Gregory Johnson did not respond to the Herald’s correspondence by press time.

Monday council candidates will speak on matters of the city at The Village Political Candidate Forum will be 7 to 9 p.m. at 324 East Avenue D.

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