Now wait a minute...
To the Editor:
It was disheartening to read Glenn Eskew’s letter to the Citizen. He seems to have misunderstood my objections to the current impact fee ordinance.
I am not opposed to impact fees or the amount to be collected from such fees. I support impact fees as a promising public revenue source. I do have concerns regarding key provisions of the current ordinance, some of which were outlined in my letter two weeks ago. It is these concerns I wish the Council to address, not that the ordinance be repealed. There needs to be a shifting of fees from new commercial/industrial development to new residential development as the former pays more in taxes than it receives in services and the latter far less. There needs to be more rationality in how fees are allocated for certain categories, e.g., fire protection. There are uses which should not have to pay fees such as schools, churches, and Habitat homes. Finally, impact fees should be levied when impacts occur, not one-two years in advance as is now the case. These are all issues I wish Glenn had addressed in his letter, not simply the merits of the ordinance with which I agree.
I also contend we should delay the levying of fees until our local economy has recovered. Glenn suggests it is “silly” to be concerned about the possible effect of impact fees on jobs and businesses. I do not feel it is silly to be concerned about such things when nearly 10 percent of our community is out of work, some facing foreclosure on their homes, and numerous local businesses struggling. While not reported in the Citizen at the time impact fees were passed, the Mayor and two Councilmen forcefully raised such concerns. Even some of those who voted for the ordinance recognize the shortcomings of the ordinance in this respect and are proposing certain exemptions. Those of us with jobs or who are secure financially should balance our desire to have impact fees immediately with the needs of our less fortunate neighbors.
Glenn stated that I am a developer. I am not. My professional life has been almost exclusively in the military, agriculture, and waste management. I have no vested interest in any local business. I have built only two houses in my life, both for personal use. My university education is primarily in economics to include courses in urban economics, public finance, and state and local government. I became involved in the impact fee issue not because it might hurt me personally (in fact the reverse is true) but because the City asked me to serve on a committee charged with reviewing this issue. I think I was asked because of my past experience in planning and zoning and my reputation for being objective and analytic regardless of my personal interests.
Glenn seemed to suggest developers should not have a voice on impact fees, that this should be left to urban planners. While we obviously want to draw on the expertise of such professionals, the State of Georgia requires a local advisory committee be established with half of its representation being from the real estate sector. Additionally, State law requires public hearings. Both these requirements recognize there can be a range of legitimate views on this issue.
To say developers should not be allowed an equal voice because they will only act in self interest is like saying university professors would have no legitimate input beyond personal interest into the laws which govern them or the budgets under which they must operate, that this should be left solely to expert planners.
I would encourage Glenn to review the background information on this issue as well as the ordinance language and methodology. I think in doing so, he also will wish to help correct the shortcomings of the ordinance so that it is a good law in the overall best interest of Madison.
Printed in the May 21, 2009 edition.