On The Agenda: Traffic Impact Fees and Stimulus Wish List

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council meets at 7 p.m. tonight for a work session, at which no votes are allowed, to once again take up its ongoing conversation regarding the highly controversial implementation of transportation impact fees, and to review the list of projects compiled by city staff should federal economic stimulus dollars become available.

Tonight, the council will discuss the impact fees in light of the public comment it has recently received. Through e-mails, letters, and petitions and comment cards distributed by the group, Citizens for a Better Flathead, more than 100 members of the public have so far sent statements to the council in support of the traffic impact fees as currently proposed, and urging the council to vote in favor of the fees. Citizens who support the impact fees have grown increasingly vocal at recent meetings on the issue, often standing in front of city hall waving signs in favor of the fees before meetings, and speaking up during the public comment portion of council meetings.

On the other side, the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors (NMAR), several local bank executives, business owners, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and the city’s biggest developers who stand to get saddled with the biggest impact fees should they pass, have maintained their strident opposition to the fees, arguing that the city’s current plan is rife with errors, would stifle growth in the middle of a recession, and disproportionately charges commercial development, particularly retail, in its methodology for calculating the fees.

Council members seem largely undecided on whether to put the fees up for a vote, and most appear to be far from ready to form an opinion on the issue, based on the last discussion that had, which you can read here. Prior to that, a previous discussion Jan. 12 drew a large crowd, but attendance at subsequent meetings has dwindled as it grows increasingly apparent the city council has a lot of work to do before it will be prepared to vote on the traffic impact fees.

Also on tonight’s agenda, the city is submitting applications for infrastructure and transportation improvement projects for which it hopes to receive federal funding, either through regular congressional appropriation or through the estimated $8.25 billion economic stimulus package that appears poised to pass through Congress. Interim City Manager Myrt Webb has assembled a list of so-called “shovel ready” projects which could put people to work within a few weeks of funds becoming available. What follows is a broad list of the projects; the full list is available on the Kalispell City Council Web site.

Shovel Ready Projects
Kalispell Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion, early phases: $4 million
Grandview Sewage Pump Station and Gravity Main Upgrade: $600,000
Overhaul, upgrade and rehabilitation of all urban roadways and intersections within city: $2.5 million
Reconstruct Three Mile Drive to a three-lane arterial roadway, Phase 1: $4.2 million
Stillwater Road Drainage Improvements: $307,000
Willow Glen Drive Drainage Improvements: $162,949

Other Infrastructure Projects
U.S. Highway 93 Kalispell Bypass: $105 million
Stillwater Waste Interceptor Pipeline to serve north and west areas of city: $6.2 million
Reconstruct Three Mile Drive to a three-lane arterial roadway, Phase 2: $5.8 million
Upgrade and improve Two Mile Drive: $4 million for Phase 1, $5.6 million for Phase 2
Reconstruct, expand and improve Whitefish Stage Road between Oregon Street and Reserve Drive: $6.2 million
KGEZ Tower Mitigation for City Airport: $500,000
Downtown Kalispell Parking Structure: $5.5 million
Public Safety Training Center Indoor Firing Range land acquisition: $400,000
Hockaday Museum of Art Expansion: $5.6 million
Community Land Trust funding for workforce housing: $300,000

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