Friday, December 09, 2005

The hottest story going

It’s the biggest story in Charlotte – and Union, Cabarrus, Iredell counties and most other places around here. Bigger than the Bobcats. Bigger than their new arena. Even bigger than Ric Flair’s divorce. (Disagree? See below.)
It’s growth. Development. It’s what people in the old days used to call "progress." That sounds so quaint now, like calling a sofa a davenport, or a fridge the icebox.
And most everyone has an opinion about it, from "It’s my property, don’t tell me what I can do," to "Stop the developers!" to "No more density!" to "No more sprawl!" – two opinions widely shared yet mutally exclusive. And that’s not even getting into the whol Wal-Mart melee: Agent of Satan or WWJ(W)Wal-Mart’s Where Jesus (Would) Shop.
That’s why I launched this blog. I’ve got a gazillion opinions, and judging from the e-mails and letters I see, you do, too. I write a regular column for the Charlotte Observer but there's more to discuss than there is newsprint available to hold the discussion. So …..
Let’s get a discussion going. How’s this for starters: Impact fees?
Those are per-unit or per-lot fees that developers pay to local governments to help pay for schools, or streets, or parks, etc. (Two important things to remember: Usually, though not always, the cost of the fee is included in the price of the house you buy or apartment you rent. And the income they bring in isn’t enough to fully pay for the schools, or the roads or other government services the residents of the new development require. I.e. they don’t replace property taxes.)
Do we need them in Charlotte, or in the places nearby? If so, what should they help pay for?
You can post your opinions below, or respond to others’ opinions.


Anonymous said...

I'd say no to impact fees, but I think developers who build major housing projects should be required to set aside space for 1) schools and 2) parks. The problem is that CMS still won't build schools even when it has the land. So maybe developers ought to have to build schools?

Uncle Dennis said...

The amount of an impact fee will not totally cover the costs of installing all the infrastructures necessary to maintain a development, but do put a dent in it. Sure the fees will be passed on to an end user, and this could be viewed as a "tax" of sorts, but a fee of $3600 would boil down to $10 a month on a mortgage, or the price of a couple of Vente Mocha's at Starbucks. Furthermore, the person paying this fee will be the main recipients of the services. Nothing is free.

Anonymous said...

We keep hearing that impact fees will add to the price of new homes.
Charlotte new homes prices are way below the national average, especially when you factor in the square footage. If we are going to be a world class (naked) city, higher new home prices (and smaller living spaces) re inevitable. Besides, our city would be much better off if more people bought and rehabbed older homes instead of adding to sprawl. Higher new home prices would be an incentive for that

Anonymous said...

Just let the expansion continue, Charlotte needs so much more of .....everything

Steve K. said...

There's a battle brewing in my area over a proposed new 1,000+ home development. For all the details, check out

Personally, I think it's inevitable that the developers are going to bill those back to the buyers later on. But developers should be held more accountable for the problems that their work causes (i.e. school overcrowding, traffic confestion, etc.). I probably agree with anonymous #1, developers should have to build parks and schools too, if they want to put up 1,000+ homes in my neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

If you add impact fees, the local governments will still waste the money and the schools will still probably never be built. The first thing we should do is spend what we have better.
Here is what I dont understand. If there is a parcel of land that is on the tax books at 1 million dollars. A developer develops this land into 10 $700000 homes, now that same land that was on the tax books at $1 million is now on the books at $7 million.
I just think that the growth is creating enough tax revenue to keep up - just the govt. keeps spending it on other things, ie. waste!

Jus' Tressie said...

speaking as someone actively searching for a new home I actually agree with impact fees. I'd even be willing to have them raised IF it came with a guarentee that the money would be used for services that have a direct impact on the community i'm joining.

that's not elitest but practical. my tax money goes towards community needs but my impact fee should build schools, streets, infrastructure and such for MY neighborhood.

the problem? there is no such guarentee and that is a concern

Danoplan said...

Charlotte desperately needs impact fees in order for the City to keep pace with infrastructure needs. Over 80% of cities in Florida use impact fees to pay for roads, schools and parks. With the growth coming, we need to provide this infrastructure. In addition, impact fees are paid by more than just residential developers. For example, road impact fees are also collected from new retail and office development. Thus it is not uncommon for a new regional mall or a Wal-Mart to pay over $500,000 for a new development. This type of revenue stream would greatly improve Charlotte's ability to keep pace with new development. Charlotte needs impact fees immediately.

Mike said...

I agree with the anonymous poster who said "governments will still waste the money."

The only answer government ever has to any problem is to throw more money at it.

The real problems are lack of management skills and accountability.

Even if a developer were to build a school as part of a planned community, you'd still have the Larry, Moe, and Curley of the city, the county and CMS running it.

Andria said...

Impact fees could also help the tree cover in the Charlotte area. Fees for bulldozing older trees -- by accident or on purpose -- could be increased to reflect trees' true value. Florida communities near Orlando do that (who would've thunk it).
And congrats, Mary, on your blog's success. Ten comments is nothing to sneeze at, especially when words like "impact fee" are competing with Colin Farrell.
Can we talk about rezonings, infill development and the health of corridors like Central Avenue sometime?

CBH said...

Of course we should be imposing impact fees! 1) Growth is rampant and has outpaced services for decades. New growth should pay for, at minimum, the increased services it will require in the near and mid-term. 2) As Dennis wrote, the person paying the fee will receive most of the benefit. 3) The argument that growth will pay for itself is simply wrong - infill development can, but new houses on green fields are enormously expensive for the rest of the community (think schools, sewer, roads, trash, policing). Also, those costs are front-loaded (higher at the beginning) and recapturing that initial cost to break even takes many years. 4) If this fee makes it more difficult for someone to buy a house, they should save their money and wait until they can afford it.

If anyone can get a copy of the CMS & Planning study completed in September, those numbers alone should convert anyone still unsure about impact fees.

Anonymous said...

Does Housing Pay For Itself? Depends on who does the calculations there is no, I repeat no definative answer. All answers are tinted to reflect who pays for the research. What is not indispute is that governmental revenues are being redirected by elected officials from basic needs (schools, roads)to Aquatic Centers, Childrens Theatres, Whitewater Centers, ad infinitium.Perhaps it is not growth we cannot afford but elected officals buying votes and support at the expense of basic needs.

Anonymous said...

In your first op/ed page Mr. Clarke wants to find waste in CMS construction. Start with Construction Management Fees from McDevitt Street now Bovis. They amount to millions on the last bond issue and have only added an unneccessary layer of administration.

wtheproblem said...

Why should someone who has lived in thier current home for 15, 20, or 30 years pay for infrastructure for new homes ? A simple fee designed to reflect the actual cost of a new home AND it's impact on the surround area ie; schools, parks, etc. is not too much to ask. The new homeowner would also benefit from lower taxes in the future because he won't be expected to pay for the next new neighborhood to come to town.

In the end more value would be placed where it belongs, in our existing homes and neighborhoods.

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