Kane County will not lower impact fees to spur economy
The quest by some Kane County officials to lower the fee charged to new developments died in committee Tuesday.
A lower fee was planned as an effort to spur growth in the local economy, but a county board committee was too suspicious of its benefits to give up the money the fee generates for road and transportation improvements.
The county, like many local municipalities, charges impact fees to hold new developments accountable for the increased burden placed on roads because of the traffic they create.
County board member Mike Donahue was the leading proponent of reducing the impact fees. In a memo to fellow board members, Donahue said development and the new traffic it creates has not materialized to the degree county officials first thought it would when they created the impact fees. Donahue proposed decreasing the fee by 80 percent for one year.
The current fee is designed to have developers pay about 50 percent of the road improvement costs required by the new traffic their project creates. Donahue's plan would have left developers paying for only about 10 percent of the cost of the road improvements spurred by their projects.
"At the moment it seems clear that new development is not about to rebound in the foreseeable future," Donahue wrote in the memo. He continued that he thinks there has been a reduction in overall traffic and that a fee reduction is therefore "necessary to avoid a challenge to our existing fee structure, which continues to collect impact fees when there is demonstrably no impact."
The county has collected about $22 million in impact fees since they came online about a decade ago. That money has fueled the Stearns Road Bridge and major projects on Anderson and Orchard roads.
But transportation committee Chairman Cathy Hurlbut said Donahue's proposal is both a moot point and legally dangerous. She said there is only one project in the works that would benefit from the reduced impact fee during the next 12 months. And the county could not defend the 10 percent fee if it was challenged in court.
"If you have to defend a legal challenge, you need to base the fee on a formula," Hurlbut said. "There's no science behind the 10 percent. It's just a number."
The majority of the committee agreed with Hurlbut.
Other critics of Donahue's plan said local taxpayers would have to pay for the costs of road improvements if the impact fee were reduced. They also said developers can already apply for a reduction to the fee on a case-by-case basis.
Donahue and fellow transportation committee member T.R. Smith were the only votes in favor of the reduction.
"The horse is officially dead," Hurlbut said of outcome of the vote.
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