Debate Over Traffic Impact Fees Continues Into 2009

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council meets at 7 p.m. tonight for a work session to discuss the highly controversial proposed transportation impact fees, and to determine what would make a new city manager successful in their first year, as part of its hiring process. No formal votes are allowed at a work session.

The imposition of traffic impact fees – a charge for developers to pay for the road and infrastructure improvements necessary to accommodate the new traffic those developments will generate – has been among the most contentious issues the city has grappled with in recent history. Developers have been making the case that leveling an additional charge on new construction at a time when the area’s economy is tanking and its biggest employers are laying off workers by the hundreds, would do even more damage to the Flathead’s financial health. Supporters of the traffic impact fees, meanwhile, argue that developers, not Kalispell’s taxpayers, must be on the hook for the demands on city services and infrastructure the massive development on the city’s north end – much of which is approved but not yet built – is sure to impose.

Tonight’s work session will tackle several remaining questions about the traffic impact fees in five broad areas, as outlined in a memo by Public Works Director Jim Hansz. Those questions are as follows, from Hansz’s memo:

Level of fees imposed: Will the fees be imposed at 100 percent of something less? If the fees are imposed at less than 100 percent, will the fees be raised later on a specific schedule or event?

Credit: If a developer installs transportation infrastructure that benefits the Main Street network, how will the developer get credit on transportation impact fees?

Grandfathering: If a developer has a multi-phase project that started before the imposition of impact fees and continues after the approval of the fees, does the developer get a break on the fees for the later phases that were started after the fees were approved?

Project prioritization: Should projects be segmented into five-year segments, for example, and prioritized based on need for the project to be completed?

Outside funding: how will the receipt of outside funding, federal/state, impact the fee administration?

Also on the agenda, the city manager selection committee has requested three to five “performance measures” that an incoming city manager would need to accomplish in their first year of employment, to help the committee select the best candidates.