Killeen is moving ahead with plans to implement impact fees — although those plans are moving slowly.

Last week, council members reviewed a timeline of what is next in the process to set a fee schedule, with a final vote set for late October.

At Tuesday’s workshop, the council received a presentation on an impact fees study and will vote this week to set a public hearing on the topic — but according to the timeline, it’s not tentatively scheduled until Aug. 27.

In the meantime, the city will be posting the study on its website, beginning Friday.

The study is expected to highlight projections with population and employment rates along with how the fees may fit with Killeen’s future land-use plan.

Hopefully, the study will clearly explain the concept of impact fees, how they’re assessed and who they affect.

For example, some people are under the mistaken impression that the fees will be charged to residents at-large, as is the case with the street maintenance fee that was added to the city’s water bills beginning this month.

That is simply not the case.

Rather, the impact fees are a one-time cost that would be added onto commercial or residential building permits and help pay for new infrastructure costs in high-growth areas. As a result, developers would help to bear the burden of new water, sewer and road costs in fast-growing segments of the city, such as southwest and south Killeen.

Granted, a portion of the fees’ cost may be passed along to residents who buy new homes in the developments where the fees apply. However, it’s a one-time occurrence. Those fees won’t be felt by those who buy the home in subsequent transactions.

Impact fees are certainly needed by the city. Staff projections show the fees could recover more than $40 million over 10 years for future road, water and sewer projects.

It’s also a targeted fee. According to state law, the fees cannot be used for maintenance of existing infrastructure. That stipulation serves to focus the funds in the area where the growth is occurring and prevents city governments from using the revenue for other purposes.

The street maintenance fee, on the other hand, is expected to raise about $1.6 annually that will be put toward maintenance and repairs on Killeen’s 500-plus miles of existing roadway. The city has authorized a study to prioritize the projects to be addressed using the revenue, as well as the funding the City Council approves in the municipal budget.

But while the street fee moved from the discussion phase to implementation in less than a year, impact fees have been bogged down in a nine-year process.

City Council members first broached the subject of impact fees in 2010, according to Hilary Shine, executive director of communications for the city of Killeen.

The issue drew strong opposition from several area developers and homebuilders, who feared that the imposition of impact fees would serve to price some prospective homebuyers out of the market.

Others warned that adding a fee would stunt city growth, with developers thinking twice about investing in projects in Killeen because of the added cost involved. They rightly noted that no other cities in the local area have impact fees, to include Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, Belton and Temple.

Still, the idea of a fee had its strong supporters, who assert that impact fees work to create more orderly growth.

Indeed, about two dozen Texas cities charge impact fees, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Among the larger cities are Fort Worth, Round Rock, College Station and McKinney. Several smaller cities also charge the fees, including San Marcos, Cleburne and Taylor.

The Killeen City Council approved the implementation of impact fees nearly three years ago — in August 2016 — but from that point to now, they’ve been slowed by a combination of inaction and state requirements.

In the fall of 2018, council members appointed 15 applicants to a Capital Improvements Advisory Committee, a state-mandated committee tasked with determining the boundaries and rules for the implementation of impact fees. The state designates the makeup of the committee, and the inability to fill seats in all the mandated categories contributed to the delay in establishing the panel.

The city also must establish what areas will be eligible for the impact fees.

The proposed service areas, according to the city’s infrastructure master planning, will be citywide for water and sewer projects and three to four areas for roadway projects with a six-mile limit.

City Manager Ron Olson has a been an advocate of the fees since coming to Killeen in early 2017.

With Killeen dealing with high growth and a chronically tight budget, it makes sense to have developers pay their share for the city’s investment in infrastructure to support new commercial and residential projects.

How much to charge is the big question. Cities typically charge anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for a single-family home, and generally have a sliding scale for business developments, depending on the size and estimated impact on nearby infrastructure.

The size of Killeen’s impact fees remains to be seen, but the topic is likely to dominate council discussions as well as the planned public hearings on Aug. 27 and Oct. 8.

Before each hearing — on Aug. 20 and Oct. 1 — the Capital Improvements Advisory Committee is scheduled to submit written comments on the study to the City Council, with a final vote set for Oct. 22.

This may seem like a long, drawn-out process — and in many ways, it is.

But it’s important to give all parties a chance to be heard, and then adopt a fee schedule that provides needed revenue to help fund new infrastructure, while not putting an undo burden on area developers.

It’s a delicate balance, but one Killeen needs to find if the city is to sustain its rapid growth — without breaking the bank in the process. | 254-501-7543

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