The issue of impact fees in the city of Killeen just won’t go away.

Killeen City Council members rejected the one-time fees charged to builders and developers in a narrow 4-3 vote on Dec. 17.

Last week, however, Councilwoman Shirley Fleming and her advisory committee announced a petition drive to ask the city to reconsider this issue.

In announcing the drive, Fleming — who was one of the three council members voting in favor of imposing the fees — said, “We want to make this work.”

That’s been something proponents of the fee have been trying to do for the better part of a decade, with no success so far.

The fee is intended to help pay for the costs of providing infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer pipes leading up to a new development.

How the fees are calculated and under what circumstances they are charged can be confusing — and apparently, some of that confusion persisted as council members moved toward a final vote last month.

Some issues need to be cleared up before the council wades into this discussion again — though it’s under no obligation to do so.

First, developers and builders pay the entire cost of infrastructure within developments they are building. That includes streets, curbs, gutters, water and sewer lines, and landscaping features. That can represent a huge outlay of money, especially in larger developments.

Second, impact fees are meant to help pay a portion of the expense of running infrastructure to a development — not cover the entire cost.

Third, the impact fees on a residential structure are only assessed to the initial homeowner and likely would be spread out over the lifespan of the mortgage if added to the cost of the home, not paid up-front by the new homeowner.

Finally, taxpayers currently pay the cost for infrastructure leading to new developments, but it is an indirect expenditure. City money used for such infrastructure must be identified, and redirecting it can result in less funding for other construction projects, programs or services.

If impact fees do come back up for discussion, council members should make some changes to the city staff’s previous recommendations.

Part of the proposed impact fees ordinance that was defeated last month includes the maximum set rate. The lowest end of the maximum rates per service unit would have been $1,769 for water impact, wastewater and roadway impact fees combined, according to city figures.

The ordinance also called for a 20 percent increase in the fees each year for a five-year period. That more than doubles the lowest maximum rate to more than $3,600. Certainly, the gradual increase was designed to cushion the blow to developers and builders, but it still seems unnecessary. In fact, some council members were hesitant to support the fees solely because of the price hikes.

If impact fees come back up for a vote, they must be in a form that is equitable to developers and builders, while still providing a dependable revenue source for the city.

The fact is, a fast-growing city like Killeen needs help in keeping up with the demands for new roads and pipelines extended to new developments. Impact fees can provide that help.

However, setting the fees too high can have the opposite effect. Discouraging developers from starting new developments could hurt the city’s bottom line, as developers decide against building homes that could produce needed property tax revenue. And as building activity slows, the amount of money from impact fees would decline as well, producing a drag on the city budget.

The best solution would be one that encourages growth while also helping to pay for it.

But in order to get to a positive outcome that benefits all parties involved, it will be necessary to clear the air.

In the last few months, the discussion surrounding impact fees has given area developers a black eye while leaving some taxpayers with the impression that they were being taken advantage of.

Moving forward, this conversation has to move away from the “us versus them” mentality that has characterized so many arguments to this point.

Killeen needs money to grow, and if impact fees aren’t the way to go, it’s up to the city council, city staff and city manager to devise another equitable and dependable revenue stream.

No doubt, impact fees could be a campaign issue in the city’s May election.

Already, one candidate who supports Fleming’s petition drive has filed for an at-large council seat.

Given public sentiment on the issue, it’s not unreasonable to believe that other candidates will speak out on the issue as well.

Certainly, a fact-based, civil public dialogue would go a long way to bringing about a positive resolution.

Otherwise, this issue won’t be going away anytime soon.

dmiller@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7543

(1) comment

Alvin

Rebuttal by Dennis Drury

'He's an old man that remembers what it used to be to be an 'American'.

This article was on the current copy of the Killeen Daily Herald for I guess not over 4 hours and was dropped as a result. I believe this is an important part in the life of Killeen, Texas and also an important part as to 'reporting the news to the citizens of Killeen, Texas'.

Copy: 'That’s been something proponents of the fee have been trying to do for the better part of a decade, with no success so far.'

Continuation of copy: 'The fee is intended to help pay for the costs of providing infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer pipes leading up to a new development.' End of copy.

And that is a fact and more so if the developer is 'building on the land for the sole purpose of gaining as much profit as he can, and that's why he is subdividing his/her property, to make as much profit as he can.

Copy: How the fees are calculated and under what circumstances they are charged can be confusing — and apparently, some of that confusion persisted as council members moved toward a final vote last month. End of copy.

There should be any confusion as to 'what the city is to charge. To me the developer has the monkey on his back, the city does not have to negotiate at all, the developer is responsible for putting the potable water, the sewer water, and the roads, curbs and cutters, and installed to the city supplied specification's and are to be inspected periodically up to final specification's where the work is to be turned over to the city for city ownership.

Point of work: It is my belief that the developer has the responsibility to go to the nearest point in which the turnover can be accomplished be it potable water, city sewer, roadways including curbs and gutters, and including the tie-in to the city's facility's. This tie-in should be accomplished under the guidance of the city inspectors to be sure the necessary and correct mechanism is accomplished. When the tie-in is completed the necessary paperwork can be completed as the city is now responsible for the work. If the necessary tie-in point is on city property then the city shall issue the required paperwork ASAP as the city does not want to hold up the developers craftsmen/women. If there is any delay in pursuit of these objectives then the developer shall introduce a change order with the appropriate man hours and equipment cost provided for the additional cost incurred. If such cost is deemed to be excessive then it shall be transmitted to an arbitrator who findings shall be final to both parties. In no case will be there be an additional delay of the work.

Copy: 'First, developers and builders pay the entire cost of infrastructure within developments they are building. That includes streets, curbs, gutters, water and sewer lines, and landscaping features. That can represent a huge outlay of money, especially in larger developments.' End of copy.

As noted, it is to the developer to absorb all costs associated with the development of his property. There should not be any city cost associated with the development of his property and it is 'his property until the new owner of the individual assumes ownership. So it is to the property owner to assume the total cost of refurbishment of his property up to the point of ownership transfer.

Copy: 'Second, impact fees are meant to help pay a portion of the expense of running infrastructure to a development — not cover the entire cost.' End od copy.

Not in all cases is that to be the case. Each city would be in charge of it's own property management, but I would venture the case that 'it behooves each city to be cognizant of what they are doing as 'they own the property that each and every road, sewer, and water lines is going to be theirs in ownership from the point of turnover and beyond so it behooves the city to get what they can out of a developer who will ultimately move on.

Copy: 'Third, the impact fees on a residential structure are only assessed to the initial homeowner and likely would be spread out over the lifespan of the mortgage if added to the cost of the home, not paid up-front by the new homeowner.' End of copy.

This is a true statement, the one that pays the impact fees is the first homeowner. The subsequent home owners do not pay for any assessment. That is a normal way of doing business.

Copy: 'Finally, taxpayers currently pay the cost for infrastructure leading to new developments, but it is an indirect expenditure. City money used for such infrastructure must be identified, and redirecting it can result in less funding for other construction projects, programs or services.' End of copy.

No, I think it is a normal procedure for the developer to pay all such costs as 'it is his/her property that is being developed for profit. Why would any city bear the development cost for an individual developer who is going to make a profit on his own property? Again, the developer should be the one who has to bear all developmental costs to be incurred including streets, water and sewer, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, landscaping, etc. that is to be incurred to the tie-in point of water, sewer roadways, curbs, sidewalks, and any and all shrubs, bushes, a green paths that might be incurred up to the point of turnover to the city. Once it is turned over, the city has the responsibility from this point on.

Copy: 'If impact fees do come back up for discussion, council members should make some changes to the city staff’s previous recommendations.' End of copy.

I do think that it should be broached again and in doing so, it becomes the responsibility of all District City council men and women to hold a city meeting to include this in the minutes of meeting wherein the citizens should be allowed to voice their opinion as to the worth of this city's current involvement in this affair. The question should be asked: 'Do you think the city of Killeen, Texas is doing the right thing by allowing the developers to seek retribution of the proceeds of Killeen, Texas thus asking the citizens to bear the brunt of monies being expended rather than having the developers bear the cost for properties being developed? A simple yes/no will/would be sufficient. The past 5 to 6 years the developers have had their own way and the cost to the present/existing homeowner have had to bear the brunt in the development of the private developer's property's. This is not the way it is supposed to be.

Copy: 'Part of the proposed impact fees ordinance that was defeated last month includes the maximum set rate. The lowest end of the maximum rates per service unit would have been $1,769 for water impact, wastewater and roadway impact fees combined, according to city figures.' End of copy.

You 4 District council individuals should own up to your obligation in that 'you are the representative of your individual Districts' so do what is right for your constituents and hold a meeting with proper time allowed and in a proper setting and ask this simple question, 'Do you think the city of Killeen, Texas is doing the right thing by allowing the developers to seek retribution of the proceeds of Killeen, Texas thus asking the citizens to bear the brunt of monies being expended rather than having the developers bear the cost for properties being developed?' Ask the question and see what you get as an answer rather than saying, 'the citizen elected me so I should be able to answer that question'. No I do not think that you can as 'the citizen elected you to make the decisions in light as to what is best for the citizens of my district' and to you other 3 At Large council people, the same question would be for you to ask, 'What would be the correct answer to all of the citizens of Killeen, Texas'.

This is your responsibility as council persons, 'to do what is best for the city I live in', and I don't think if you answer this one question it will be, 'I don't think that you will look at the state of this city and be able to answer to the questions, are we going to be responsible for the roads that are in need of repair, that we will be responsible for the fee on sewers, that we will be responsible for the coming fee/tax/bond for the storm sewers, and are we going to be responsible for the on going cost escalation of charging at the potable water rate when we all know that the volume that enters the sewage lines is not the correct volume, and as a result we are overcharging the citizen each and every month that this continues the citizen is being duped out of what the correct value should be. You think about that and see if you are going to 'hold this city wide meeting or if you are going to an accomplice to what the present city council is doing. You have the power to call your meeting or not to call your meeting, but be aware that the citizens are aware of what's going on now so it's in your ball park.

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