Opponents of Impact Fees Distort Facts in Campaign

Opponents of Impact Fees Distort Facts in Campaign

By Bradley Harrington

Brad Harrington

“Just because something works doesn’t mean it is desirable. Concentration camps work, if your purpose is to enslave people. Stealing works, if all you care about is money. Lying works, if you don’t give a damn about your personal integrity. Literally anything, no matter how monstrously immoral will work, depending on your desires and how you define the term ‘work.’” — Sy Leon, “None of the Above,” 1976 —

In discussing the possibility of impact fees for Cheyenne a few weeks back (“Who is Running Our City?”, WTE, June 25), I quoted Ward 2 Councilman Dr. Mark Rinne as explaining his “No” vote on that issue: “We were inundated with emails (from impact fee opponents) this weekend,” he said (“Impact fees off Cheyenne’s table,” WTE, March 24, 2015).

Curious as to whether that was really the case, I requested those emails, and the results were illuminating to say the least.

Rinne received 18 emails (hardly an “inundation,” but we’ll pass on that) offering opinions on the council’s proposed exploration of impact fees. All of them opposed. (A similar email campaign was experienced by the other nine members as well.)

Nearly all of the e-mailers work in the real estate or banking fields. But, while a few discussed their thoughts in their own terms, more than half (11) simply passed along a form letter. Which said, in part:

“Although impact fees may be an effective way to generate income for the city, they WILL increase the cost of housing.  The fee will be passed on to purchasers.  If the prices of homes in the city become too high, prospective homebuyers will look to buying in the county or other communities.”

And: “Impact fees have the potential to penalize long-time tax-paying residents.  For example — a homeowner who wants to finish their basement will be assessed the impact fee when they apply for a permit. Is that homeowner causing additional burden to public works, police, fire, or parks and recreation?”

This last is nothing more than a scare tactic, inasmuch as no proposal, resolution or ordinance that I have seen even mentions that as a possible option. Moreover, to imply that just because impact fees have the “potential” to be used in such a fashion, means that they will be, is disingenuous at best. This letter-writer clearly has some kind of axe to grind … And doesn’t care about the truth when it comes to grinding it.

And, as far as “increasing the cost of housing” is concerned: Remember that the purpose of an impact fee is to generate the revenue for funding infrastructural builds. How else are such needs to be met? Who do these people think OUGHT to be paying for such construction, if not the landowners themselves?

Furthermore, while higher home prices do kill demand, there are a lot of other factors contributing to those high costs that have nothing to do with needed infrastructural builds, such as having to have all development and construction projects adhere to the City’s UDC codes and specifications, for instance. Anyone care to take a stab at how many thousands or tens of thousands, per house, all those bureaucrats, engineers, lawyers and architects cost?

Nary a peep out of the e-mailer crowd’s rants about THAT injustice, however.

But, showing that lies do sometimes “work,” one letter-writer vented: “I cannot imagine how angry I would be as a homeowner to find out that there would be a $4,561 charge for nothing, really NOTHING, when hiring a contractor to finish my basement … And do you really expect me to believe that if a retail store built a 30,000 sq ft building, the City is going to charge them $194,250? And if so, why, why, why would they want to build in the City?”

Um … That amount, $4,561, is actually the proposed charge for NEW development regarding a “residential (per dwelling unit)” of “1101 to 1600” square feet (“Development Impact Fees,” TischlerBise, 2015, Page 6), NOT a charge for remodeling your basement. Sorry, someone just made that up … And suckered you into believing it.

As for the proposed charge on a 30,000 square-foot retail lot — the actual amount, calculated from the figures listed on Page 8, would be $242,190. That same page shows Fort Collins’ charge for that same footage as $465,810 or nearly half a million dollars.

Yet Fort Collins is building buildings all the time. Clearly, other factors besides impact fees are at work here– but you won’t hear a peep out of anybody on that front either.

So, Councilors, my charitable estimate is that you all got played like fiddles. A few real estate agents and bankers, orchestrated by an unknown liar, holler about their mixed-economy pork getting pinched — and you collapse like a house of cards. Shucks, why worry about what’s actually best for the city when you can cave to the special interests instead?

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

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