City starts ball rolling toward fee
Despite objections from developers that they're being unfairly singled out, the Tonganoxie City Council Monday took a step toward imposing a fee on new construction.
The council and mayor, on a 5-1 vote with council member Kathy Graveman opposed, adopted a charter ordinance that allows adoption of a fee. The ordinance goes into effect in about two months, unless a protest petition is filed forcing a citywide vote.
If the ordinance does go into effect, the council then would decide on a rate. Currently, city administrator Chris Clark is recommending a one-time fee of five cents for each square foot of buildable property not including dedicated easements and rights of way. The fee would be paid to the city when a building permit is issued.
On a single-family house built on a lot containing 12,500 square feet, the total tax would be about $625.
City council members on Monday did not adopt the fee they only adopted an ordinance that allows them to enact a fee.
"All this says is we can do it," said council member Pat Albert. "It doesn't say how we're going to do it."
Also Monday, at the urging of several members of the public, Mayor John Franiuk appointed a five-member group to explore additional revenue options.
Clark supports the excise tax as a means to help finance street improvement projects in the city.
A five-cent tax based on issuance of 75 building permits a year could generate an estimated $50,000 annually.
On the city's wish list for transportation improvements are:
Fourth Street, between Green Street and just west of U.S. Highway 24-40.
The intersection of U.S. Highway 24-40 and Kansas Highway 16.
Fourth Street, east of Pleasant.
Traffic lights along 24-40 at Main Street or Laming Road.
The area of Sixth, Eighth and River streets.
Village Street between 24-40 and First Street.
Leavenworth County Roads 1 or 25.
"If this were to be adopted, this would put us into the road building business more than we've had the ability to before," Clark said.
The administrator said he does not want to negatively impact growth in the city, but he does see the excise tax as a way to raise additional revenue.
And he said that the county's $2,500 roadway fee would not make building outside of the city any more attractive.
Albert, who voted for the charter ordinance, questioned whether the fee should apply to existing subdivisions or take effect with new subdivisions.
"We need the revenue," he said. "There's no doubt about that."
Albert also questioned whether the city would write as many as 75 building permits annually. Last year, 99 permits were written. And he said that other anticipated increases in the cost of development including $500 more for sewer connections and requirements for storm water drainage studies could have a negative effect on the city because developers would pass those costs onto homebuyers.
"Pretty soon, we're going to have houses selling at prices that aren't going to be competitive in the marketplace," Albert said.
But the mayor pushed for the excise fee.
"There's no big push from Leavenworth County to come down here and help us improve roads," Franiuk said.
And council member Ray Usher said additional development is putting a strain on all infrastructure in the city.
Graveman said only the improvements to County Road 25 or County Road 1 would enhance growth in the city.
"Why would businesses locate here with all these extra costs?" she asked.
Dean Oroke, a local developer, said the city must amend its subdivision and zoning regulations to include the excise tax.
"I think you can eventually get to where you want to be," Oroke said.
He said the city should work on those regulations before enacting a fee.
"I think you need to give it a little more study," Oroke said.
He encouraged the mayor to form a committee to study the issue. After the vote on the charter ordinance, the mayor asked Oroke and his son Curtis Oroke, along with Chris Donnelly and Greg Ward, to work with the city administrator to explore other funding options for the city's transportation needs.
"I think we need some time to come up with a comprehensive plan," Ward said.