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Impact fee study a good idea

The Denton City Council has directed city officials to further review a proposal to reconsider its policy on how it assesses developers for road work.

A number of other cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth region have developed fees for impacts developers’ projects have on the roads, including Flower Mound, Argyle, Corinth, Frisco and The Colony.

The city has been charging impact fees for water and wastewater since the 1990s but has not used that system for roads. The city currently uses its development code to assess what developers will pay.

Officials say the current system has been difficult to manage because fees were negotiated one project at a time.

For example, in 2008-09, the city collected about $1.5 million in road fees compared to the $3.5 million that might have been collected if the city charged impact fees instead. From 2008 to 2012, the city collected $4.1 million of the estimated $11.6 million it could have in its coffers if an impact fee system had been used, officials told the council.

The current system has caught some developers off guard. Impact fees, officials say, are more impartial and are calculated on units equivalent to the traffic increase associated with a new single-family house.

For instance, a new restaurant paid more under the old system than it would under a new impact fee system, in part because it was built along a state highway. But an apartment complex on Fort Worth Drive paid only a fraction of its impact on the city’s streets under the old system, officials said.

City staff will use $300,000 allocated in next year’s budget to study the matter and were encouraged by the City Council to reach out to the development community about the idea of road impact fees.

Getting input from a cross-section of developers — both those who handle infill developments and those who bring in new developments on the outskirts of town — will provide an informative backdrop from which to make a decision.

It has been a long three to four years of economic struggles for the country and though we are in a much better position than most, it behooves us not to send developers down the road to the next community.

We would advise the council to make its decision with much homework and with as much buy-in as possible so as not to halt the city’s growth spurt.

One constant we’ve heard among business developers is that as long as they know what to expect, they can pretty much plan for it. These are the same people who’ve developed projects in other cities such as Frisco, Plano and Highland Village as well as across the country.

We’d be remiss not to thank the city staff for bringing the idea to the table for discussion and consideration. It is this type of forward thinking and open government discussion that will prove beneficial in the long run for everyone.