Monday, March 27, 2006

Developers, 1 -- Everyone Else, 0

At bottom the problem with what happened Friday wasn’t even that the developers’ lobby – as usual – got to tell a group of elected officials why, in their opinion, adopting impact fees to help pay for Mecklenburg County schools would lead to economic collapse and quite possibly the end of life as we know it. (I’m exaggerating less than you might think.) The problem was that most of the rest of the citizenry, many of whom think the county is insane not to have impact fees, didn’t get equal time.

The song and dance from the developers was as inevitable as the azaleas popping into bloom in spring. The intergovernmental planning committee that’s been looking at growth and schools and trying to devise recommendations had, months back, included the words “impact fees” and “adequate public facility ordinance” on a long list of recommendations to consider.

I knew the developers’ lobby doesn’t even want those words to surface on the committee’s list of options to consider. Friday, it got to make its case.

The Planning Liaison Committee meets monthly at the inhospitable hour (at least for night-owl journalists) of 7:45 a.m. Its members are two or three representatives each from the city-county planning commission and all the elected bodies in Mecklenburg County.

I’m interested in how this community deals with – or doesn’t – rapid growth that has outstripped its ability to build schools, so I’ve been attending fairly regularly for two years. Usually I’m an audience of one. But when they started mentioning impact fees, Mary Thomsen and Tim Morgan of the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition began showing up.

Friday the room was packed. The PLC had invited REBIC, the Charlotte Chamber’s land use committee and the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects to offer thoughts. (Aside: The architects’ presentation was organized, thoughtful and deserves more publicity than I’m giving it in this posting.)

Key fact coming: The PLC has no authority to do anything. They just talk, and suggest that members take ideas or recommendations back to their respective governing bodies. So essentially, this was a way to give REBIC and the Chamber an audience that you and the rest of the public didn’t get and won’t.

Mark Cramer, REBIC’s executive director, showed a cheery video from the state homebuilders’ lobby. (“Does homebuilding actually pay for itself?” the video intones. “The answer is an emphatic yes,” and the screen shows a “YES!!” in large capital letters.)

REBIC contends impact fees raise the cost of housing so much they drive away affordable housing and send development to outlying counties, which is a legitimate issue that ought to be considered during any pros-and-cons discussion. (So, I might add, should the possibility of structuring impact fees so they apply differently to apartments and smaller houses, so low-income families aren’t as seriously affected.)

And so should the concept that having a crumbling, overcrowded school system will drive away just as much development – and be just as bad for lower-income families – as slightly higher home prices will.

Here’s the real problem: Building enough schools will take money and it must come out of somebody’s pocket. The questions for the community ought to be: Whose pocket, and how much, and what is the fairest and – important point here – most politically feasible way to find the money?

All the options have pros and cons, and they should all be discussed openly. The developers should not be allowed to pull off the table the one or two options they happen not to like.

I’m not even sure impact fees are the best way to go. A land transfer tax will raise more money and be more broadly based. But developers and real estate lobbyists hate that one, too.

The elected officials treat the developers’ lobby and the Chamber as if their opinions are more important than everyone else. But we all have skin in this game, not just REBIC.

Raise your hand if your kids or grandkids go to an overcrowded school. Raise your hand if your kids’ school is in terrible need of renovation and repair. Raise your hand if you moved here from a place where impact fees are routine and the place hasn’t suffered from total economic collapse. Raise your hand if you think Mecklenburg County should consider them as a way to raise a bit of money to build more schools.

Guess what? You are cordially NOT invited to make a presentation to the Planning Liaison Committee. They’re too busy hearing from the developers.


Rick said...


Who would they invite? It only makes sense for groups to be invited. Were there groups that you can site who support impact fees, but were deliberately turned down from presenting because they support impact fees? I highly doubt that is the case. Until you can provide names of groups that were turned down for presenting to this committee, you are just whining. Maybe I'm wrong, but I highly doubt that you would have left that out of your post if you had evidence.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mary,

There is nothing evil about developers, especially when our city and region are growing as fast as it is now. The more people come, the more housing we need. Go to Detroit, Buffalo, Hartford or any other city that would LOVE to have the same problems we are having. Come to think of it, you'd like those towns for another reason Mary...a bunch of old buildings decrepid that you seem to like to cling to.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that ANYONE even vaguely associated with city-county government speaks of the need to pay for growth considering that their mantra for years has been that growth pays for itself with something left over. That, after all, has been the rationale for waves of annexation, and I don't know that I've actually heard an elected politician ever admit that their zeal for growth had a cost.

To the subject of impact fees and other revenue devices: there's not a thing wrong with the idea of causing the buyers of new homes to pay the costs of the load that their homes place on city services so long as it is done in fashion that reflects the actual dimensions of that load.

I don't think it is beneficial in the end to use impact fees as a social engineering tool. Reduce them to near nothing for so called affordable housing and transfer the cost of those residents to buyers of more expensive new homes and I suspect that the market will do the obvious: cause concentrations of smaller less expensive houses inside the city and county, and larger more expensive homes across the borders.

In the end that's deadly. The lower income residents are also those who are most likely to use county services, and the lower priced housing will generate less property tax revenue with which to fund those services. Since a fair number of those services are mandated that essentially requires diverting revenue from quality of life services used by the broader population: police, fire protection, and schools. And that can only have the impact of fueling the flight of those able to locate across the borders. That is not a long term solution to funding schools or anything else.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that most other fast growing states and communities have school, roads and park impact fees but Charlotte does not? Did growth slow down in Florida where over 80% of communities use impact fees to help keep pace with growth? Of course not, but at least those places have a dedicated funding source (impact fees) that they use to fund infrastructure to accommodate new growth. You are right there is nothing evil about developers, but there is a problem when infrastructure is not keeping pace with development. The development community should be good stewards of our quality of life by seeking to ensure that an appropriate level of infrastructure is in place as development comes on line. Supporting impact fees would go a long way to protecting our quality of life instead of acting like the problem doesn't exist. We all want good roads, schools and parks for our families and impact fees are a proven way to help us achieve that goal. Charlotte is not like Detroit, Buffalo or Hartford, but is a lot more like Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando all of which use impact fees and continue to grow and prosper. Come on Charlotte, it is time to invest in our infrastructure and impact fees are an obvious choice.

Jimmy Mac said...

The developers must have their spies out tonight Mary keeping an eye on you and those darn pesky "Impact Fees".
Grow up Charlotte stop falling for the okey dokey from the development community and those weak politicans of ours!

Gray Newman said...

Not every elected body is represented. The one group that has the environment as it's mission is not represented: The Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation Board.

Anonymous said...

We can't intelligently discuss Impact Fees because people like Mary who write (Incite) in the paper already have their minds made up we need them despite the facts.

Fact: Impact Fees started in California as a funding mechanism when Prop 13 crippled gowth in Property Tax for local governments. We in the region have no such problem.

Fact: Impact fees cannot legally be scaled for income, affordability, etc...

Fact: New Homes do not relate directly to school growth. Most School Planners use .59 or .6 of a child per new home. It requires a 1:1 ratio for direct corelation.

Fact: There is an unspoken third rail to the debate. The Keenan Institute in Chapel Hill estimated the cost 10 years ago to educate the children of illegal immigration at $10 million dollars sate wide. Their estimate for 2005 was $210 million dollars state wide.

Fact: Growth pays for itself. The proof is why do cities annex if it is unprofitable? Try and tighten annexation laws and hear from the cities.

Fact: Property Tax payers cannot afford to carry the burden alone.

Fact: Impact fees are unfair when a mature childless couple has to pay an Impact Fee for Schools to downsize to a patio home development. Yet in an older neighborhood a couple with multiple children purchase an existing home with no school fee.

Potential undiscussed solution: 1/2 cent sales tax only, only, for new school construction with a sunset/review provision every few years.

We all benefit from the education of ourselves and those around us. With sales tax we all pay a little.

Anonymous said...

Those aren't facts, they're opinions masquerading as fact.

"Fact: New Homes do not relate directly to school growth. Most School Planners use .59 or .6 of a child per new home. It requires a 1:1 ratio for direct corelation."

Hmm, so if a new development consists of 300 houses and another one across the street consists of 700 new homes, these combined developments won't affect demand for schools? Let's see, 1000 x .6 = 600 students.

As for the public input, well it's simple. If neighborhoods would simply pool their resources and pay for access like REBIC... Wait, that doesn't sound right. No, there it is in my "market economics for dummies" handbook.

Rick said...

"Not every elected body is represented. The one group that has the environment as it's mission is not represented: The Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation Board."

Ok. That's a valid point. Now show me where they were deliberately turned down from presenting before this board. My guess is that they didn't even ask. The complaining should be directed at this group for not doing its job rather than at developers just doing theirs.

Anonymous said...

Impact fees to pay for education (or whatever) fall on deaf ears when the school board is inept, and city/county government is flushing money down the toilet on the arena, light rail, arts, etc. instead of cutting those programs and building schools (but what fun is a new school ribbon-cutting ceremony, anyway compared to getting your picture taken with Omeka Okafor).

Here are my facts:

1) Growth pays for itself. If you do not think so, then why advocate NEW condos and highrises in uptown? Won't all that growth BURDEN the city for the same reasons? I hope you support impact fees all along South Blvd and on all the new highrises.

2) Impact fees are a backdoor tax increase. Developers will pass them on to home owners (marked up even), who will then pay even HIGHER property taxes, since the valuations will be higher.

3) The underlying problem, which EVERY rational person is aware of, is governemnt WASTE and not a lack of funds.

We have increased spending on virtually every government program under the sun at a rate far higher than inflation, yet we are getting less for our money.

Impact fees get no traction with the public because we know we pay TOO much already and GovCo makes too many bad decisions.

Let see Mary Newsom support stinging all those new uptown condos with big, fat impact fees to pay for the new police and fire services to protect the new residents.

Don't hold your breath.

This is just the usual 'I hate the suburbs' mantra from Newsom.

Anonymous said...

"1) Growth pays for itself."
Check out the American Farmland Trust. Their studies indicate that residential does NOT pay for itself. As for impact fees Uptown and on South Blvd, I support it. From what I read, Mary did not come out wholly endorsing impact fees, but that requires reading and not knee-jerk reactions.

2) Impact fees are a backdoor tax increase. Developers will pass them on to home owners (marked up even), who will then pay even HIGHER property taxes, since the valuations will be higher.

Fair enough. I don't see them as tax-increases because they won't affect me directly. I see them as a cost of entry. I'm tired of subsidizing newbies and developers. Just as country club dues increase over time, so do community dues.

3) The underlying problem, which EVERY rational person is aware of, is governemnt WASTE and not a lack of funds.

I like the cheap debating tactics of "EVERY rational person"--insinuating that those who disagree are irrational. I'll buy the premise that government waste exists and accounts for some of the shortcoming. How much? I don't know and neither do you. However, if you can pull out the budget and pinpoint it, you'll have a better case. The use of Govco is a giveaway that your a fundamentalist. So, what you consider waste might not be representative of the general public.

Rick said...


as I say almost weekly, please use a name or at least a screen name. people like to know who they are talking with. plus, it makes it so much easier to call someone out when you don't agree with them.

Anonymous said...


So apparently just NEW residents should pay extra for new schools?

Well, then they should get to the new schools and you 'old' residents who are not having to pay impact fees can go to the old schools.

Impact fees will do nothing to replace incompetent city managers and the hicks and class warriors on the school board.

The problem is management not funds.

If you gave me a $1Billion, I am pretty sure I could get some schools built without impact fees.

Impact fees will just drive up the costs of living in Meck. even more, and give people nothing in return.

But I know Newsom does not care. Her goal is just to create a light-rail riding, art museum visiting, lily-white rich version of uptown where average North Carolinians are not welcome. They are all just a bunch of rednecks, and not the sophsticated urbanites that Newsom wants around anyway.

Jimmy Mac said...

I too wish you folks with the caustic remarks had enough b**ls to ID yourselves.
It makes you look like little children.
Be a man or woman and let folks know how you really feel?

Anonymous said...

For those who want an egregious example of waste. CMS use of Bovis or whatever the name is now for Construction Managementon the Bond Package. They add nothing, they save nothing, they cost and cost. A few years ago CMS built a building for hired Construction Managment.

One example of sounds small but just an example of many many things to add up. Doors are not 3 hinged as is standard but continous hinged. Cost $200.00 per door for every new door for CMS.

Anonymous said...

Direct Correlation

Direct= Exact
Correlation = Relationship

Housing does not have an exact relationship to school growth.

Meaning buying a new home should not equal paying a School Impact Fee. The new homeowner may or may not be impacting the schools.

Anonymous said...

When you speak of 'correlations' and things, you are trying to use science and reason.

There is no science and reason with this bunch. To believe Newsom and company you must believe:

1) Growth in the urban core pays for itself. Growth in the suburbs is evil and must be stopped.

2) The private sector are a bunch of greedy, profit-driven capitalists pigs, unless they are building it uptown, then they are saints (and entitled to huge subsidies)

3) Mary Newsom's personal preference for square footage, artistic expression, and zip are all that matter. We must all obey.

4) People WANT light rail (su-u-u-ure they do). You have to say this one repeatedly.

5) Real life is like television where everyone works at coffee shops and lives in $300K New York style lofts and rides mass transit.

6) There ISN'T really any cheap land from here to Georgia.

7) You don't NEED 5,000 square feet for your family home because that is greedy and excessive. But we DO need $600,000 to pay for 'art' in the new light rail stations because the gang bangers will appreciate it.


Ad far as the anonymous thing..

a) I'm lazy
b) I get enough spam as it is, I do not need to fill out yet another online form

anon pro impact said...

I don't mind anonymous posters. I abhor generalizing and lumping folks and ideas into a big sorter with only two outcomes: the market or "mary and her ilk." It is intellectually lazy.

This is a talk about undue developer influence and how it waters down policy in favor of developers. CMS and its quality or lack of quality is a non-issue. Gripe all you want about how our tax dollars are spent, but it does not negate the fact that residential is not paying for itself.

Show ONE example in a growing metro where property taxes are declining thanks to the bliss of residential development. AND, consider this. We've outsourced a lot of public works in the form of HOAs that charge members for things like pools, tennis courts, and landscaping (things my parents property taxes used to cover when I was a kid).

Add it up: Roads + Schools + Stormwater services + police/fire/EMS + other public services. The old model of relying on property taxes is broke. It ain't working any more.

Sending our kids (and I usually hate the "what about the kids" argument) to over-crowded schools is immoral IF educational quality is compromised. I'm no fan of CMS and they can be dealt with in another thread in terms of being a broken model.

Rick said...

thank you jimmie mac. on anonymous posting, we agree.

to the too lazy anon...

you must be too into your ranting to notice the nice little "other" radio button right below where you type. this handly little feature allows you to provide a name without any forms or spam.

learn it, use it, love it.

Jimmie Mac said...

OK, How's this?

Not Anonymous said...

That's what you are hung up on? Anonymous posters?

I guess you have to have something to argue about, since you're position on impact fees (the TOPIC) is weak.

Oh, yes. I am sure those internet handles are your real names. Who cares?

But back to the topic...

We should adopt a fair payment system in Charlotte for all the new services that goes something like this:

1) If you live uptown, you get a huge property tax increase to pay for all the new shiny entertainment. Rescind all the taxes that are paid by people that will never use them (I am sure poor minorities in the East and West will never set foot in Bobcats arena, unless they become REALLY good at basketball).

2) Take the total price tag of the light rail system and divide by all homeowners and businesses within 5 blocks of a proposed light rail station and send them the bill. Rescind the sales tax.

3) Offer tuition tax credits for people who want to pull their kids out of public schools and put them in provate schools.

4) Lower the base property tax rate for primary residences, and then assess people on a per child basis, a property tax multiplier to pay for the schools. No reason people with no kids in a $500,000 house should pay more into the schools than a family with 5 kids living in an apartment.

5) Assess all new highrises with a per-unit fee to cover the costs of extra police, fire, and anti-terrorism measure needed to protect those kinnds of buildings (it is more expensive).

Anonymous said...

Everyone has avoided the third rail. Growth in educating illegal immigrants and/or their children. There is a cost and they are filling classrooms. See the Keenan Institute Study.

Property Tax is based on an old economic model and is not relevant to the current economy. No comment on a sales tax for property tax relief?

The lack of science and reason is exactly why the screamfest, not debate, on Impact Fees always brings the "last word" from either who brings the money to the table or who buys ink in 55 gallon drums.

Filling the forum with off topic requests to be a blogger or at least adopt a clever nickname before you are credible won't further the discussion or find a solution either.

Rick said...

first, 'not anon', it's not a hang-up to not want to participate in a conversation with someone who does not have the courage of their convictions enough to even put a name on their posts - real or not. I don't agree with jimmie mac on anything, and I actually do agree with much of your posting (if it's the same person, I can't tell). However, I respect jimmie mac more because at least he has some spine. knowing who you are talking to IS part of the process of convincing people of your postition. If you are not actually interested in conversation, just ranting, then I would say you are not interested in actually forwarding your position.

second, my first name is actually rick, or richard if you want to be more precise.

third, I have no way of knowing if you were even talking to me or jimmie mac, or Mary, or gray newman (bravo on the first and last name Gray. very brave considdering how many nuts there are out there like 'not anon').

fourth, if you were talking to me, my comments were about the representation at these meetings which was the actual topic of Mary's original post as described in the title. her post was about representation at the table, not a pro-impact fee rant. She even says "I’m not even sure impact fees are the best way to go."

so, I ask, who's off topic?

I'll stop clogging the forum when you show that you are actually worth readng.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

Mary's column is titled 'developers 1, everyone else 0'

Insinuating 2 things:

1) That developers through some kind of cozy arrangement with government, had prevented the average Joe from participating in debate about impact fees. She, of course, has no evidence to support this.

2) 'Everyone else' lost out on this. Wrong again. MOST people are probably opposed to impact fees, since we know they are just passed on to consumers like any other fee, and the idiots running Char/Meck government with just light it on fire anyway.

Mary complaining about not getting the other side of an opinion at some meeting is very ironic for someone who works for the Charlotte Observer, which has toed the big government line on virtually every issue in the community, and stamped out opposition.

Example: an article pointing out how $32 million of road money to renovate Old Providence road was raided to pay for the pedestrian bridge for light rail over 277 because L/R is so far over budget.

That article was relegated to the 'Dr. Traffic' column, which I am pretty sure even Dr. Traffic does not read. All so McCrory can fancifully claim that the L/R is still 'on budget', having gone from $220 million to $426 million and now raiding other accounts off the radar screen.

anon pro impact said...

The point about immigrants in the schools is important. Immigrants come to places of economic opportunity. If you look at places like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, you won't find much Hispanic immigration. The cheap labor comes with costs--educating the next generation of immigrants.

North Carolina is actually importing more under-educated migrants than educated (college degree) migrants. When I say "migrants", I'm also including Iowans or Texans--folks who have migrated to NC. The repercussions of this trend will be felt more dramatically in the future.

IF our current property tax system is broke and unable to fund the necessities of growth, then alternatives need to be developed. Impact fees and adequate public facilities are two options that deserve consideration. The status quo ain't working.

The Real Jimmy Mac said...

Well Rick at least some have begun to be more then just Anonymous.
But to stay on topic I'm for impact fees,in the 15 years I have own my home my property taxes have doubled.
They have doubled because developers have come to town with their dollars falling out of their pockests into the hands of our elected officals.
Who inturn are afraid to impose any type of fees on developers for the impact their projects are having on the city and county.

Rick said...

"I am not Mary Newsome"

To your point about the skewed reporting of the Observer, I'm sure that Mary would have written a glowing post about the Planning Liaison Committee meeting if CMS, the Sierra Club, and the Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation Board were the only groups that had presented. In that case it would have been presented as evidence on the importance of impact fees to the community.

Idealists like Mary and her brethren tend to make the major mistake of believing the world should be fair. However, true fairness does not exist without effort by all parties involved.

In this case, she sees it as unfair that the business lobbies got their say and others did not. That's not unfair. That's the result of her side not making any effort.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

Mary Newsom does not want 'fair'.

Fair is:

1) People use use light rail PAY for light rail. (a round trip will cost the taxpayers about $15, but the fare will only be about $2)

2) People who consume $9,000 per year per child in public schools PAY $9,000 per child per year. (the reasons there are so many failed public schools is because so few people have any financial stake in them)

3) If someone consumes X amount of governement services, then they pay that X amount in taxes. (Why do 10% of us pay 90% of the taxes?)

4) ALL PEOPLE PAY TAXES (most people do not)

5) Consumers get what they PAID for. If the consumers want cul de sacs, oceans of Harris Teeters and Home Depots, and 6 lane interstates, then that is what we should build.

Mary does NOT want fair, she wants central planning from governemnt to tell people where to live, where to work, how to travel, what size house to live in, how wide sidewalks should be, what kind of car to drive, etc.

It's called 'socialism'. Look it up.

Disgusted in Union Co said...

It's amazing...the ignorance of some of the "anonymous's" is breathtaking. Several (falsely) claim that "growth pays for itself" and then cite annexation as their validation.

Good or bad, annexation pays for itself. Growth does NOT pay for itself. Annexation doesn't involve building new homes to further overburden our public facilities; in fact, one of the unfair things about annexation could be that it levies new taxes on existing residents.

Developoers are only as evil as each individual's inability to stomach government subsidy. Developers in this region are highly subsidized and are operating more profitably than almost anywhere else in the world. Everything is provided by existing taxpayers for the developers here. Taxpayers build new roads into empty, undeveloped fields and forests to provide access to developers' landlocked parcels. Then taxpayers and ratepayers provide water and sewer lines into those parcels to enable the developers to further increase their density. Then developers build, build, build their "product". Then developers go to the bank and deposit millions. Then taxpayers first pay for trailers to house the schoolchildren who've moved into the developers' product. Then taxpayers pay for new schools to replace the trailers. The developers keep their money and only dip into it to make political contributions to candidates who promise to keep supporting their free ride. Meanwhile taxpayers continue to fund even more of the capital needs of the new people who made the developers rich.

It's so funny (well it would be funny if it weren't embarassing) to read some of the Newsom-hating anonymous's complaining about the idea of some high-rise urban housing. It doesn't matter whether or not the housing is in downtown Charlotte or in once-beautiful Union County: new homes = new residents = new burdens on services. Actually, much of the urban housing is targeted to singles, empty-nesters, and childless couples, so unfortunately for the (il)logic of the urban-haters the city homes probably generate more revenue and consume fewer fiscal resources.

In any case, the notion that developers don't disproportionately control the government process is absurd. They do. And it's a very sad situation for taxpayers.

Here in Union County developers control everything. They have bought just about every elected office. That's why our environment and school quality are rapidly on their way down, and our taxes are rapidly on their way up. Developers here even oppose an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Not impact fees - just an ordinance that won't allow new home development if there are inadequate facilities (especially schools) to handle the newcomers. Nobody is trying to force one single developer to pay an "impact fee". Yet still developers oppose it. They want a free ride. They've had it for years, and they are just too used to having other people pay for their profitability.

Another Other said...

How can there be support for impact fees or adequate facilities fees on homes when there is admission immigration or migration is raising school cost $200 million dollars a year from 10 years ago?

Buying a new home means you should pay for new schools despite a corelation of .6?

Buying a mini-van probably has a better corelation ratio of school age children and impacting schools than new homes. Impact Fee mini-vans. Gas guzzling environment destroyers.

Birthing certainly would have a high degree of corelation to school impact. We impact fee births and have the advantage of insurance companies paying the fee. Evil greedy health insurers.

Remember Car Dealers and Insurance Providers won't add the cost onto their products and services.

Developers pay for a great deal of infrastructure, roads, water, and sewer. Then they give it gratis with a warranty to the government who then profits from supplying water/sewer to customers.

Annexation pays or cities would stop doing it. Just try and take that right away. Annexation is typically in areas of suburban style development.I know of recent studies by City Staffs detailing the payoff. Most Cities have a full time Annexation Analyst in the Planning or Engineering Department to be sure it pays.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

>>Developers in this region are highly subsidized and are operating more profitably than almost anywhere else in the world. Everything is provided by existing taxpayers for the developers here. >>

Developers in UPTOWN are the only ones highly subsidized, otherwise they would not be building along South Blvd.

In Union County, developers want to build so bad that municipalities like Stallings are able to wrangle new roads, intersections, land donations, etc. out of them. That is a fact.

This is the problem with GovCo getting into the game. They don't go where demand is, they attempt to create demand in pursuit of come central planning vision.

That is why there is tax policy and subsidy in uptown and south blvd to encourage development.

What sense does it make to in one breath say we need impact fees, then in the next one give corporate welfare to NASCAR, Bobcat Johnson, and all the builders uptown and on the L/R line? That's just robbing peter to pay paul.

Government should be an observer of the market, not a participant.

As for Union County 'going downhill fast' I would seriously dispute that.

I have been on numerous municipal meetings regarding what developers are having to cough up in the way of improvements to get their projects through.

That is NOT happening in Charlotte because there is no demand. Government is having to create demand through tax policy.

If someone wanted to build a new high rise and McCrory said 'only if you build a new school' the developer would run.

In Union County, they bend over backwards because there is legitimate market demand there.

Ed said...

You write, "Here’s the real problem: Building enough schools will take money and it must come out of somebody’s pocket. The questions for the community ought to be: Whose pocket, and how much, and what is the fairest and – important point here – most politically feasible way to find the money?"

With regard to being fair, there are two schools of thought: The first is that to be fair, you take the money from people who have a lot of it. This is viewed as "fair" if one believes that those who have a lot of money
probably got it "unfairly", and taking some of it by force of law makes things "more fair". The second school of thought is that to be fair, you get the money from those who get the service. That school of thought would say "if you have five children in the school system, each costing about
$8,000 for each of 12 years ($480,000 in total), exactly why shouldn't you pick up more of the tab?

It isn't building a home that impacts the costs of the school system, rather it is placing a child in the school. But that leads to the "politically feasible" issue. Grabbing a few million dollars more from some
group is politically feasible if the pilfered group does not have a wide base of popularity. And who loves developers? They are viewed as environment spoiling fat cats. Pay no attention to the fact that the impact fee gets passed directly to the home buyer. But then, our overtaxing government wins again. They can point to the "greed" of the developers to
account for that "price increase"!

If Porsches were subsidized by the taxpayer, I'd have 5 of them in my

Rick said...


That's why I would say that something resembling "fairness" actually does not exist at all without effort and compromise on all sides. This could be applied to just about any social, economic, or political issue. In Mary's post, she seems to expect fairness without any effort, but unfortunately, the world doesn't work that way.

As you say, the common definition of fairness usually involves taking from one group and giving it to another which by default can not be fair in all cases. As jimmie mac likes to say, you have to believe "rich people are evil" to morally accept high-taxes on ALL wealthy people. Otherwise, it would just be a little too close to stealing in a lot of cases. But I have to ask, how is that fair to the person who was born in a housing project, took advantage of public education, worked really hard and made a lot of money? Is it fair to apply the same high tax rate to that person as it is to the robber baron who made his fortune simply through connections and possibly shady activity? I don't think so.

The second school of thought would be really hard to implement "fairly" as well. Sure, everyone could pay for their children at school. That one is easy to calculate, but how do you calculate all of the other costs of public services? How much do you charge people who live in low crime neighborhoods because the criminals are being arrested in high-crime neighborhoods? The low-crime neighborhoods are low-crime partly because the police are arresting criminals in other places. If they didn't, then eventually those criminals would migrate to the low-crime neighborhoods.

You can say the same for roads. Many poor people don't own cars, so should all car owners pay the cost of all roads even in poor neighborhoods where they will never drive? They COULD drive there, but the poor people without cars who live there never could. Maybe only trucking companies should pay for roads since trucks are what engineers design bridges and roads to withstand.

Fairness does not exist - only pragmatic solutions exist. Unfortunately, most people prefer to complain about fairness rather than coming up with pragmatic solutions.

tarhoosier said...

The element of "growth" that is made of up of homebuilding will not pay for itself because of the school situation, predominately. Look next door to Union County which has enacted a county moratorium on permits of more than 5 homes. This is because the county must fund school construction of more than 500 million dollars in the next few years. County manager Mke Shalati reported this in the Union County budget last year with the word "unsustainable" in bold letters.
Streets in my neighborhood must be unzipped regularly to replace and enlarge water, sewer, and runoff drainage pipes because of the demand from the homes and apartments even further from the city. This demand for increased service is paid for by me and all other existing owners, though the demand is created by those moving into the new areas.
All development creates impact. Is this impact to be amortized by all or should the generator of the impact accept some responsibility?
An alternative is to ask those generators of impact to accept longer rides to the library, lower water pressure, delayed garbage collection, and diminished sewer capacity. Now THAT would be an impact requirement.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

If you read WAY INTO the Union County budget, you will find that receipts from property taxes have exceeded the growth rate of student population AND the growth rate of education expenses for the last 10 years. This is largely because VALUATIONS in Union County have gone up double digits for 10 years (25% in ONE year alone).

Adding new homes ADDS incrementally more tax revenue than it takes in public services in areas where valuations are climbing. Also, new homes demand retail and commercial services, even if they are just Harris Teeters and dry cleaners, that consume very little public services and contribute heavily to the tax base. In a nutshell, that is why GROWTH PAYS FOR ITSELF.

As I have ranted many times, the problem lies with bad decisions by government and lack of priorities, not lack of money.

People who build arenas and light rails while there is school overcrowding and crime and homelessness should be locked in federal prison.

The property taxes/education thing is somewhat of a ruse anyway. The county funds only a portion of the schools. MOST comes from the state and the Federal government, which gets not money from property taxes.

Anonymous said...

"The property taxes/education thing is somewhat of a ruse anyway. The county funds only a portion of the schools. MOST comes from the state and the Federal government, which gets not money from property taxes." Good point. How much of the light rail is going to come from local sources?

Anonymous said...

>>How much of light rail comes from where>>

Well, about half will come from the Federal government to construct light rail.

In terms on ongoing expenses (using existing CATS data), about 67% of operating costs are frmo Mecklenburg, the rest from the state.

In terms of capital costs, about 24% comes from the Federal govt, the rest from 'other'. Whatever that means.

FYI - fares (people buying tickets) pay less than 9 cents per dollar for mass transit in Charlotte. All said in done, in 2004 a ONE WAY ticket on CATS cost the taxpayers about $11.50. CATS spent about $200 million, they earned just under $10 million (yes, TEN), and they had almost 19 million one way trips.$File/4008.pdf

Raymond's View said...

I have to laugh at the people who say that most people would be against impact fees....that is just hype. I attended a meeting last night for the Rocky River Area Plan. The residents of this area were ticked off that development in the University area is out of control and there is nothing but 2-lane rural roads with no plans for improvements. I bet if you asked them, they would think impact fees are a great idea. I think there are a whole lot of people who are fed up that infrastructure is not keeping pace with development and impact fees would help. If you are going to grow this fast, you need impact fees. Other fast growth states have impact fees and it doesn't slow growth. What impact fees do is help ensure that the capital infrastructure (schools, roads and parks) that are necessary to accommodate new growth are in place when the development occurs. If you want to learn more about impact fees, check out

I am not Mary Newsom said...

Consider that most people who are FOR impact fees are just existing residents who have their slice of cheese already and trying to protect their turf.

People opposed to impact fees don't show up to those meetings, they just go buy a house somewhere else where it is cheaper. Why fight the battle, when there are plenty of other choices.

That is what Meck. leaders can't get through their thick heads. You will puch people into Union County and eventually into Lancaster County, and those places will gladly take them.

Impact fees do not solve anything, they would, at best, just push growth elsewhere. Which may be good for a specific neighborhood, but it does not address the underlying problem. The problem is poor planning and administration.

It is just another tax. An when they are done milking that one, the next one in the arsenal is the 'land transfer tax'.

Personally, I pay taxes and fees to govt for dozen of things. It is just out of control.

They waste it on arts and entertainment and then turn around and tell the police chief he can't have more cops because they don't have any money.

McCrory is the classic 'fake it until you make it' leader. He is like the guy who buys a BMW and rolex on his credit card to try to convince everyone he is a mover and shaker.

Except the Mayor is using OUR credit card. People in the city of Charlotte and Meck. are in for some SPECTACULAR property tax hikes once all the numbers start not adding up.

Impact fees, in the HIGHLY unlikely event they get passed, will just stunt new growth and won't provide enough $$ for anything. Homeowners will get shafted yet again with the tried and true propert tax increase.

Raymond said...

To - I am not Mary Newsom - quit using that tired argument that impact fees will push growth elsewhere. That is unfounded. Did impact fees in Tampa, Orlando, Naples push growth elsewhere? No, of course not. In case you haven't checked, those areas have grown at a very rapid rate even though they have had impact fees for 20 years. In addition, their property values have increased significantly, while Charlotte's continue to lag behind. Gee, maybe impact fees mean higher growth, higher property appreciation and timely infrastructure improvements. That all sounds pretty good to me and probably to most residents in Charlotte that have to deal with overcrowded schools, roads and properties that are not increasing in value compared to the rest of the country.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

First, I never said ALL growth would be pushed away.

If you do not think that raising the price of homes will drive demand in lower cost areas, then you just have no basic understanding of market forces.

Second, the problem IS NOT LACK OF MONEY!!!!

The problem is bad management. Give teh existing CMS bozos more money, and they will use it to renovate underused inner city schools in the name of equity and ignore the suburbs.

Give McCrory more money and he will pi$$ it away on more shiny toys to stroke his mayoral ego and ignore police, fire, and roads.

The county clowns like Parks Helms and co. do not care if you increased their bankroll, they are going to raise your taxes anyway.

Impact fees are PHILOSOPHICALLY evil, because they place the burden of fixing bad government onto home owners through yet another fee.

It isn't lack of funds, its lack of brains, and the unwillingness to make the objective decisions instead of the politically convenient ones to appease various interest groups.

Rick said...


I'm not going to say you are completely wrong, but...

If you are going to compare Charlotte to other cities, please be honest enough to compare apples to apples. It would say that the below information from the Orlando Economic Development Commission has more to do with their growth than impact fees. Charlotte would be better compared to any of the high-tax cities in the northeast than to tourist mecca, low-tax Florida cities.

Florida’s Business Tax Climate
Florida ranks 2nd in the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index which measures the impact on business of five major elements of the tax system; the percentage of income taken by all taxes, the individual income tax rates, the corporate income taxes, the sales tax rate, and the complexity of the tax system.

Florida’s State / Local Tax Burden Among the Nation’s Lowest
Over the past 14 years, Florida’s tax burden has had one of the nation’s lowest tax burdens. Since 1994, the burden has fallen significantly as individual incomes have risen faster than state/local taxes collections. Estimated now at 8.8% of income, Florida’s state/local tax burden percentage is ranked 45th nationally, well below the national average of 10.0%.

Florida Levies No Individual Income Tax
Florida is among six other states in the country that collect no individual income taxes. Since most small businesses are either S Corporations, partnerships or sole proprietorships, they pay their business taxes at the rates for individuals. This makes the tax environment for small businesses in Florida very competitive compared to other states.

Florida’s Corporate Income Tax System
Florida’s corporate tax structure consists of a flat rate of 5.5% on all corporate income, which ranks 8th lowest among states that tax corporate income.

Florida Levies Sales Tax; Gasoline Tax among Lowest in the Nation
Florida levies a 6% general sales or use tax on consumers, above the national median of 5%. In 2003, sales tax collections were $879 per person (ranked 6th nationally). Florida’s gasoline tax stands at 13.9 cents per gallon (ranked 48th nationally), while its cigarette tax stands at 33.9 cents per pack of twenty (ranked 31st nationally). Neither of these measures is indexed for inflation.

Florida Property Taxes: Middle of the Pack
Florida is one of the 38 states that collect property taxes at both the state and local levels. As in most states, local governments collect far more. Florida’s localities collected $13,335,837,000 in property taxes in fiscal year 2000, the latest year for which the Census Bureau has published state-by-state data. That amounts to $838 per capita in taxes, or if measured as a percentage of income, $30 per $1,000 of income.

DavidLauderdale said...

Mary, could you post a link to information about the "adequate public facility ordinance?"

Anonymous said...

Impact fees are plain common sense. It doesn't take a genius to see that, and members of the community should be allowed to attend these meetings. Just as our schools don't educate the people, our leaders leave us without the knowledge to make educated choices.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

I hope we all caught Steve Forbes interview last week when he was here in Charlotte.

When asked what he thought was the greatest threat to the prosperity of North Carolina he said 'high taxes'.

Impact fees are the previous poster who pointed out all the data from Florida was right on.

Impact fees could be understandable if we were in a low tax environment already, but we are in the opposite.

High income taxes, increasing property taxes, and increases to virtually every tax possible to pay for toys.

Meanwhile basic services go unmet.

If North Caolina wants to abolish the state income tax and place constituional caps on property taxes, you would make ME an impact fees supporter.

Until then, it is just another increase in the cost of living for average folks to end up getting wasted in the govt coffers.

Another Other said...

The root cause of Impact Fees:

The cause can can found deep in the nature of government by bureaucracy. A bureaucrat is accountable at all costs. Roads and Schools are built when use exceeds capacity and not before. To do otherwise, to plan, to be proactive is not to be accountable.

When the accountable bureaucracy follows its true nature not to be proactive on roads and schools then visionary politicians take the tax money from the till to do visionary things (Arena's and Hall of Fames, etc..) Then roads and schools reach capacity and bureaurocrats finally react, only the tax money is gone. So politicians seek new funding sources (impact fees, transfer taxes, etc...)to replace the funds and hide the theft of tax money that should have been available to be used on basic government services.

Raymond said...

Rick - thanks for the information on Florida. If you don't like my Florida examples, can you tell me why impact fees are ok for use in...AR, AX, CA, CO, GA, ID, IL, KS, LA, MD, NH, NM, NV, OH, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, VT, VA, VT, WA, WV, and WY but they are not ok for use in North Carolina? Impact fees are are a "mainstream" funding tool to help pay for growth. Come on folks, the time for impact fees have come in North Carolina. Seems to me most of the states above are growing pretty fast and seem to be doing just fine with impact fees. Maybe it is time for NC and Charlotte to have impact fees as a tool to keep pace with growth.

i am not mary newsom said...

Because 'everyone else is doing it' is not a good reason to support higher taxes here.

The problem is WASTE not lack of funds.

CMS has $1B per year. What does that get you? Complaining that they need more money.

The state's budget has gone up $1b in the last year.

Now we have a lottery. Where will that money go? To schools? (Ye--aaah, right).

The problems are:

1) No accountability
2) No vested interest by the masses (i.e., poor people who pay no taxes vote for people who will RAISE taxes on people who actually DO pay taxes to pay for more free stuff)
3) Too many taxes that don't directly fund things. Fuel taxes should pay for roads only. Property taxes should NOT go toward pre-K programs and after school programs for poor kids.

4) Polticians who know nothing about balancing a budget (what average Joe could, when faced with spending huge sums of other people's money).

5) No term limits.

6) Government should be constiutionally banned from being INVOLVED with the private sector. Sure, its really fun to do a project for an arena and a NASCAR hall of fame to meet all those famous people and get yuor picture in the paper with them. Meanwhile crack dealers are shooting up half the city.

Crack Dealer said...

Hey, I'm not shooting up half the city. If you guys don't like me shooting up my turf, why don't you buy up the property and privatize it?

Rick said...


Actually, I didn't say impact fees were bad. What I said was you are misleadingly comparing apples and oranges. Unfortunately, you are continuing to do it. Here is an analysis of the state income taxes for the states you mentioned. Many of these have lower sales and gas taxes as well.

ALASKA No State Income Tax (Not sure what AX was)
NEVADA No State Income Tax
TEXAS No State Income Tax
WASHINGTON No State Income Tax
NEW HAMPSHIRE State Income Tax is Limited to Dividends and Interest Income Only.
TENNESSEE State Income Tax is Limited to Dividends and Interest Income Only.
(You should love these last two. They only sticks it to the rich/evil investor.)

Compare these states to NC. Notice that most of them have lower highest rates, than NC's lowest rate. Only Oregon and California have higher upper brackets, and even CA has a much lower, lower bracket.

NORTH CAROLINA (o) 6.0 - 8.25

COLORADO 4.63 flat rate
ILLINOIS 3.0 flat rate
PENNSYLVANIA 3.07 flat rate
ARKANSAS (a) 1.0 - 7.0 (e)
CALIFORNIA (a) 1.0 - 9.3 (x)
GEORGIA 1.0 - 6.0
IDAHO (a) 1.6 - 7.8
KANSAS 3.5 - 6.45
LOUISIANA 2.0 - 6.0
MARYLAND 2.0 - 4.75
NEW MEXICO 1.7 - 5.3
OHIO (a) 0.712 - 7.185
OREGON (a) 5.0 - 9.0
SOUTH CAROLINA (a) 2.5 - 7.0
VERMONT (a) 3.6 - 9.5
VIRGINIA 2.0 - 5.75

Raymond said...

Rick - you and I can continue to agree to disagree, but I have to hand it to are a fact checking machine! I appreciate that this forum gives us the opportunity to discuss these issues....more people in Charlotte need to be discussing these issues - Raymond

Rick said...

You are correct Raymond. If more people particpated in these types of discussions, more people would be informed, more people would get angry, and more would get done - one way or the other.

For example, I never knew that so many places with high growth used impact fees, and you maybe didn't know that those places tend to have much lower taxes.

What this discussion shows is that impact fees work, but they appear to work best where government does not already overtax its people.

Believe me, if NC lowered the income tax and gas tax, and CharMeck lowered it's property tax, I would have absolutely NO PROBLEM with impact fees that were legally required to only fund new schools and not other government boondoggles.

The truth is always somewhere in the middle.

Growth probably does pay for itself in the long-run in high-tax locations like Charlotte. The problem is that it doesn't do it fast enough to build new schools. 5000 new kids a year have to go somewhere, and the property taxes don't come in the big chunks needed to fund schools.

However, as your examples and my analysis of them shows, impact fees where taxes are low seem to work OK. (I know to some, this may not be fair, but I've already gone into my opinion on fairness.)

The reason that they can't/won't work in NC is because, as others have said, impact fees are a tax. In a high-tax state/county this additional tax becomes unbearable to the people already paying high-taxes. If other taxes were significantly lowered, then impact fees targeted towards specific infrastructure efforts (not the general fund) would work.

Anonymous said...

Impact fees coem down to one thing: more revenue for government. And as is being pointed out, before the question of HOW to raise money is answered, the question of how much is enough ought to be answered. If that is not addressed, and if we simply provide new means to channel money to government, the answer will be that there is never enough.

I actually LIKE the concept of impact fees so long as they're equally tied to actual IMPACT, but to some degree things such as impact fees are dangerous since they disguise the reach of gvoernment into the pocketbooks of the citizenry. They are indeed a hidden tax and there ought be no such thing. Taxes should be visible, clearly identified and direct. In other words, the person actually paying them should be writing a check to the taxing authority.

Anonymous said...

You may not know but the developers in the state are trying to get thier houses and lots exempted under the idea that they are inventory (as in personal property). The only thing developers want is to make more money off of others. If they succeed, then the county and cities will not even have tax dollars to pay for the basic infastructures needed today.

You need to contact the legislators and tell them not to exempt the builder's lots and homes as inventory before the short session starts on May 1, 2006.

purplexed said...

For DavidLauderdale, asking about a link about an adequate public facilities ordinance:
google this:
adequate public facilities ordinance mecklenburg 2006-016
and you'll get a choice of a pdf or html version.

the nearby town of Huntersville describes one here: