Developers call new fees unfair

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The protests of several developers who lined up in front of Littleton City Council regarding impact fees fell on mostly deaf ears Aug. 20, with councilors voting 6-1 to charge $3,762 per residential unit and about $1.83 per square foot of commercial property in an effort to ensure growth pays its own way.

“We know that we’ve put into the city of Littleton much more money than we’ve gotten back,” said Charles Edwards, president of Dallas-based Fagin Resources Inc.

Earlier in the evening, council approved a plan to build 250 apartments and three acres of retail — the Meadows at Platte Valley project — on land Edwards’ company has owned since 1985. At the time, he agreed to make about $3 million in infrastructure improvements, including the extension of Mineral Avenue west across Santa Fe Drive. He’s paid more than another $1 million in interest since then.

If Fagin has to pay the new impact fees, that’s about another $1.2 million, but less than the $1.6 million it would have been if Mayor Debbie Brinkman had not successfully moved to exclude parks and recreation from the equation.

The fees can only be used for expansion of capital assets necessary due to growth, not maintenance, and must be held in dedicated accounts. BBC Research and Consulting recommended charging $5,274 per dwelling unit for residential construction, with $1,543 going to parks, the Buck Recreation Center and Carson Nature Center.

Brinkman said there’s a much greater need to maintain existing assets, which is done by South Suburban Parks and Recreation, than to expand or acquire.

Councilor Jim Taylor agreed with her on that, but was the sole vote against the impact fees in general.

“We built this city without requiring all these fees, and we can continue to exist without these fees,” he said. He called it “extremely unfair” to lure developers in by declaring “Littleton is now going to move into the 21st century,” then slapping them with new fees in the middle of the approval process.

Staff had recommended assessing the fees when the developers pull the building permit, but Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Stahlman successfully amended the ordinance to move the assessment back one step to when they file a site-development plan.

“You don’t start making the rules after the game’s been played,” agreed Councilor Bruce Beckman.

City Manager Michael Penny has noted that Colorado’s pending-ordinance doctrine means the fees would apply to any application on the table when council approved the legislation creating the fees on first reading July 16. During the meeting, he noted that the fees will be refined once actual costs are better established, and that council will always have the opportunity to create exemptions.

The fees will be dedicated to expanding the physical assets of Littleton Fire Rescue, Littleton Museum, Bemis Public Library, Littleton Police Department, transportation and other city-owned facilities.

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