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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 10 October 2017  

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  Development vs. impact fees: apples to oranges
  By Lindsey Harrison

   During its 2016 first regular session, the Colorado General Assembly signed House Bill 16-1088 into law. Called the “Public Safety Fairness Act,” HB 16-1088 allows fire protection districts to impose an impact fee on new development.
   
   In the August issue of “The New Falcon Herald,” Trent Harwig, fire chief of the Falcon Fire Protection District, said before HB 16-1088 was passed, fire districts in Colorado were statutorily prohibited from collecting fees on new developments. Other special districts such as metropolitan districts, water or parks and recreation districts have all had the authority to charge fees on new commercial and residential development to cover the impact that new growth has on their future capital requirements, Harwig said in the article.
   
   “State lawmakers passed a bill that added fire districts to the list of special districts that are allowed to impose impact fees on new development but stopped short of giving the fire districts the authority to act on their own authority while imposing the new fees,” he added.
   
   Fire districts must enter into an intergovernmental agreement with their respective counties to determine if there should be an impact fee, and to determine the cost of the fee and the process to collect the fee, Harwig said in the article.
   
   As of the NFH publishing date, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners had not approved an IGA for the county.
   
   Mark Waller, District 2 representative for the BOCC, said the board has to be thoughtful regarding the implications of approving more fees.
   
   “Every time we add a fee to anything, the cost rises for everybody,” he said. “The developer is not going to absorb that cost; it is going to get passed on to the consumer. We do not want to have so many fees that buying a house becomes prohibitive for the workforce people.”
   
   Mark Gebhart, deputy director of the EPC development services department, said any impact fee, including a fire impact fee, is going to be reflected in the cost of the house. However, the fees paid to the county through the development process are not the same as impact fees, he said.
   
   Generally, development takes multiple steps to get from raw land to livable land, he said. Each step has its own fees, which are paid to various entities, Gebhart said. For instance, application fees and subdivision exactions (fees exacted from a property that is subdivided) are paid to the county, while water and sewer tap fees are paid to the city or district that has the infrastructure the developer wants to tap into, he said.
   
   In 1999, the EPC administrators revamped the county’s land development code and created a review process that analyzed the cost to the county related to each step throughout the entire development process, he said. The analysis determined a breakdown in the actual cost of the overall development process and resulted in the current BOCC-approved fee schedule, Gebhart said.
   
   According to the EPC website: “The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners has approved fees charged by the Development Services Department based on studies of the cost of service. These costs include, but are not limited to, staff time, equipment and technology needed to complete project reviews and other required services.”
   
   “The goal was to, as closely as possible, recover all the funds (from the developer) for the development process,” Gebhart said. The fees vary depending on what the developer plans to do with the land, he said.
   
   The current BOCC-approved fee schedule can be found on the EPC Planning and Community Development Department’s homepage on the county’s website at http://elpasoco.com.
  
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