Friday, June 6, 2008

Hailey fees petition clears hurdle

Probable special election in August could cost city millions

Express Staff Writer

Bob Wiederrick exchanges paperwork for his petitions with Hailey City Administrator Heather Dawson. Photo by Mountain Express

Hailey voters will likely have an opportunity in August to vote on whether to keep in place a city law that allows the collection of fees to offset the impacts of new development.

Hailey metal worker Bob Wiederrick began circulating two petitions in February. One is designed to repeal the city's "development impact fee" ordinance and the other to repeal the city's provision for collecting business license fees. Last week, Wiederrick succeeded in gathering more than the required number of signatures on both petitions, thereby requiring the city to hold a special election on the two issues on Aug. 5.

Before an election is set, however, the signatures must be verified. The county clerk has 15 days to verify the signatures on the petitions.

The city would lose an estimated $4.5 million in revenue over the next five years if the ordinance gets repealed, city leaders said this week.

"The development impact fees were put into place two years ago at the request of Hailey residents who wanted to see development in the city pay for itself," Hailey Mayor Rick Davis said.

City officials had estimated the fees would bring in $580,000 during the first year, but due to a slowdown in construction, only $180,000 has been billed to developers since the fees went into effect.

That money would be returned to developers if the ordinance gets repealed in August.

Development impact fees are expected to pay $4.5 million of the city's five-year $30 million capital improvement plan. The fees are expected to pay for construction of a new police station, portions of construction costs for two new fire stations, increased trail systems and park acreage, and construction of roundabouts at street intersections to accommodate increased traffic.

Wiederrick claimed in March that the development impact fees are a "disguised tax," which has increased his cost—from $16,000 to $24,000—for building a metal-working shop on land he owns in the South Woodside light-industrial zone.

Wiederrick's also opposes the city's annual business license fee, which he says has risen from $25 to $50 since he began paying it. Business license fees bring in about $40,000 a year and are used primarily to pay for safety inspections at Hailey businesses.

City Administrator Heather Dawson said the city initially expected a total of $800,000 revenue from development impact fees when they were first considered several years ago. Now the city expects an additional $392,000 in fees from Old Cutters subdivision, which was annexed into the city last year. If Quigley Canyon developers are successful in annexing into city limits under current development plans, the fees associated with that 372-unit development would bring in $973,000 more to city coffers, the city edtimates.

Under state law, the money could only be spent for "a proportionate share of the cost of new public facilities needed to serve new growth and development," associated with the annexations.

Dawson is concerned that the date of the probable special election, Aug. 5, will not allow for full public participation in voting on the issue.

"At that time during the summer many of the residents who most benefit from the fees could be out of town and not turn out for the vote."

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