City Council considers alternative development fee

Saturday, June 8, 2013 | 5:02 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A proposal to institute new building fees to cover the cost of increased traffic split Mayor Bob McDavid and councilman Karl Skala at the Columbia City Council's planning retreat Saturday.

The council discussed economic development, infrastructure, growth management and the city's financial health on the second day of its annual retreat as council members and city department heads convened at the Activity and Recreation Center to cover the city's strategic planning initiatives and objectives and hear proposals from individual council members. 

Skala, Third Ward councilman, proposed his trip generation model, part of his campaign platform, to the council Saturday. Trip generation is an assessment fee based on the amount of traffic a new development would generate during peak hours, 4 to 6 p.m. The fee would be charged when a contractor applies for a building permit.

Currently, Columbia charges a development fee, or excise tax, of 50 cents per square foot for all new construction. Columbia also has a transportation sales tax of half a percent. This money goes to building and maintaining streets and sidewalks near new developments, Skala said.

"We are currently only collecting about $1,000 from development fees (per property)," Skala said. "Taxpayers are subsidizing the rest."

McDavid said he did not support Skala's proposal, arguing the plan would face well-funded opposition and would ultimately fail. He also said he thinks fees and taxes change behavior and instituting trip generation may lead to decreased revenue.

"I think it's a flaw to assume there is no return on the infrastructure investments that are made," McDavid said.

Sixth Ward councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said Skala's plan had merits, but that McDavid raised valid concerns. She would be interested in exploring middle ground options that borrowed from Skala's proposal while taking into consideration other ways that revenue is generated.

The fee is calculated by multiplying three factors:

  • A standard fee multiplier set by the community which is equal for all new buildings.
  • The number of trip ends, or the number of vehicles that will be drawn to the location. 
  • The number of units at each location, which are assigned different scores by the Institute of Transportation Engineers based on how much traffic will be generated.

Skala provides examples in the documents outlining his plan.

The council also discussed a potential general obligation bond, which could fund a new building for the Columbia Police Department and repairs for the stormwater system. 

Finance director John Blattel proposed and explained a general operating bond, which could appear on the November ballot. Blattel said the city could raise $44 million through a 20-year decreasing tax. It is estimated that the city needs $12 million to build the new police station on the northwest side of town and estimates for the stormwater repairs total $300 million.

The council reached a general consensus on the bond itself, but left the specifics of how the money would be allocated until a subsequent meeting.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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Michael Williams June 9, 2013 | 8:07 a.m.

Unfortunately, Skala's plan smacks of "I've got mine, but you can't have yours without paying." It's the sort of damnphoolishness that embarrasses us in front of the rest of the state.

I'm in favor of it, tho, but only if EXISTING Columbia structures and neighborhoods are assessed according to Skala's trip generation model.

As for "taxpayers are subsidizing the rest", Skala and the council need to remember that when they moved here, taxpayers were subsidizing the rest, too. Skala et. al. need to pay their past-due debt and contemplate if they would have even come here in the first place if such fees were assessed way-back-when.

PS: Of course, the big-3 trip generators will be exempt....medical services, insurance, and the HUGE one....UMC. But that's not who we're targeting, right?

PSS: This plan will, of course, stymie Columbia's growth (the REAL agenda). It's like an abortion; you never know who you didn't get.

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