Archive for Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Commissioners seek compromise on road fee plan

April 14, 2004

After months of working on the county's proposed Road Improvement Fee increase, no decision has been made.

Or, as Joe Daniels, county commissioner said Monday, "We're still playing the tune -- we haven't got to the chorus yet."

Last Tuesday, Leavenworth County commissioners held a third public hearing to discuss the proposed RIF change.

"We've taken all the testimony and we've asked the county counselor to craft a resolution," Daniels said. "What he wants to do is check with the legal aspects of the program and make a recommendation to us."

Daniels does not know when commissioners will make a final decision.

$2,500 fee now

Presently, when a building permit in a rural area of the county is obtained, a $2,500 RIF must be paid. Earlier this year, the county's transportation committee proposed and the county's planning committee approved a RIF that would increase to $14,000 for homes built on gravel roads. Homes constructed on blacktop roads would pay 75 percent of the proposed fee, and homes built on paved highways would pay no RIF. As originally written, the increase would be phased in during a six-month period.

The plan met immediate protest from rural residents who planned to sell their property or build homes in the county, as well as from some developers.

John Zoellner, the county's director of planning and zoning, said he thinks what the county may end up with is a plan that would grandfather in all buildable lots.

A buildable lot, Zoellner said, is one that has been legally divided but doesn't have a house on it at this time.

It's difficult to know how many such lots exist in the county.

"You can't just look at a map and tell," Zoellner said. "Because a map doesn't tell you when it was split off."

Developer perspective

Tonganoxie developer Jack Willis said it's a good idea to grandfather in lots already platted.

"That's only the fair thing to do," Willis said. "It's still going to hurt all the future building at $14,000 a lot if they stick with that. But, yes, it will definitely help me because I've already got the lots, and $14,000 a lot wasn't factored into the original cost of the land."

Willis said he sympathized with what the planning groups and commissioners are trying to do -- to make new construction pay for road improvements.

"They do get barked at all the time because of the roads being bad," Willis said. "I'd hate to have to make their decisions."

The issue Willis said, is whether rural residents want to live on chip and seal roads or gravel roads.

"My feeling is if they moved out there when it was gravel, then it's gravel," Willis said.

An option that has been discussed is that residents along a road can petition the county to improve their road and set up a benefit district. The cost of the work is then added to their taxes.

Daniels said, although he's not sure what the final resolution will entail, he'd like to see a compromise.

"What I want to do is say if you have buildable lots you would be grandfathered in and not come into the new system," Daniels said.

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