On The Agenda: PB&J’s Impact Fee Issue

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council meets tonight at 7 p.m. to tackle an issue one business has with transportation impact fees. The controversial fees have served as a political punching bag ever since they were implemented in March of this year, and the complaint by the owner of PB&J Christian Bookstore seems likely to reignite the debate.

At issue is PB&J’s proposal to relocate from 220 First Avenue East, in the KM Building, two blocks up and across the street to 35 First Avenue East, the prior home of the Kalispell Parks and Recreation Department and, most recently, the Busy Bee Play Center. The small book and sandwich shop intends to do some minor remodeling at its new location to add additional kitchen fixtures and a food preparation area.

But although PB&J’s new location would be 150 square feet smaller, Nancy Johnson, the owner of the business, calculates she would owe the city roughly $1,800 in impact fees: $607.26 in sewer impact fees, and $1,227.18 in transportation impact fees, according to a memo by Assistant City Engineer Paul E. Burnham to City Manager Jane Howington.

Impact fees are charges to businesses and homeowners for the additional demand on city services their structures and the accumulated growth of the city creates. These fees also exist for water, stormwater, police and fire department protection, but none of these would be assessed to PB&J in this case. Transportation impact fees pay for road improvements and maintenance necessitated by the new traffic created by growth, and so fall more heavily on businesses.

Much of the controversy over transportation impact fees has centered on the charges to the developers of large so-called “box stores” on the northern end of town, but PB&J’s issue sheds light on how small, locally-owned businesses are affected by the impact fees as well.

In her letter to Councilwoman Kari Gabriel, Johnson notes her business is not expanding in space, staffing, services or even the menu, so she wonders why moving up the road has prompted a transportation impact fee of more than $1,000.

“It is important to the continued success of our business that we make this relocation,” Johnson wrote. “If we are required to pay this fee, we will not be able to make this move and our continued presence in the downtown area of Kalispell will be compromised.”

In his memo to Howington, Burnham notes that previously, entities that relocated from one place to another – like Bob’s Bail Bonds, Flathead Food Bank and Janitor’s World – were required to pay the difference in impact fees between the previous use and the proposed use of the new location.

When a business relocates, there is no increase in impact on the city’s systems and services, Burnham added, but once a business increases the demand at its new location, then another business moves into the old location, there will then be an overall increase in demand on the system.

The council will discuss tonight whether a more accurate standard for calculating PB&J’s impact fees exist based on data more specific to the business, rather than the industry published data used to arrive at the $1,800 estimate. As Howington notes in a memo to council, however, using this alternate data could also saddle PB&J with higher fees, depending on how the calculations work out.

Council members will also consider whether the city can and should accept raw data from future applicants who may lack the funds to hire an engineer to produce their own traffic studies.

Also on tonight’s agenda:

–The owners of the Ashley Square Shopping Center are requesting west side tax increment finance district funds to assist in the public infrastructure portion of an improvement project.

–The city and the Montana Department of Transportation must agree on a construction agreement allowing the state to award the bid for the second phase of the Kalispell bypass.

–Kalispell Municipal Court has been awarded $348,473 from the Department of Justice under the Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program.

–C.M. “Butch” Clark is requesting reappointment to the Evergreen Sewer & Water Board.

–Montana Mapping Associates is requesting a one-year extension of a preliminary of two small lots on either side of Denver Avenue.

–R. Dick Mitsch is requesting a zone change from P-1 to B-2 for two adjacent tracts on the west side of U.S. Highway 93 south, south of Kelly Road.

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