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guestview: Impact Fees
Alderman John Williams


Strong residential growth! Unprecedented commercial interest! Major road improvements! A new park forthcoming! Recent national recognition for quality of life!

Why would the town of Farragut want to change anything? In particular, why assess so-called impact fees at a time when everything appears headed in the right direction? Isn’t that exactly the wrong move?

Studies have examined why impact fees have been implemented over the last 25 years by scores of municipalities across the nation and four underlying community characteristics have been

identified.

First, a large population is typically present that is, second, growing rapidly.

Third, the community typically has high property taxes and further increases lack voter support.

Finally, growth has propagated a large infrastructure that requires increasing capital appropriations to maintain.

Comparing Farragut to these features, only the existence of a large population is lacking. The popular opposition to a property tax in Farragut is functionally equivalent to having high taxes already in place. For these reasons alone, I can see why study of implementing development impact fees was underway by the Town at the time I was elected alderman last April.

But, there is more to consider.

You have read in the farragutpress in the last two weeks about the “cost-sharing” method applied to only a subset of residential development that upgrades merely proximate infrastructure needs.

You have also learned that many other developments, commercial included, may not be obligated to contribute to upgrading needed improvements that maintain the appeal of the Town and facilitate patronage of residential or retail activities. Moreover, the tacit assumption is that cost-sharing agreements agreed upon by the Town and the developers are easily negotiated, but that is not always the case. Sometimes these are difficult, time-consuming discussions that overly burden Town staff and, depending on the outcome, can result in inconsistent developer contributions to infrastructure upgrades. This process, though commonly used, impresses me as less than ideal.

I ran for alderman, in part, because enough like-minded citizens were convinced that a more aggressive approach to completing pending park, recreational, and infrastructure projects, combined with new initiatives focused on community-enhancement, would usher in the next era of greatness for our community.

Not only do I see implementing impact fees as an established, legal and forward-looking approach to furthering these goals, I see this as a way of replacing inferior policy with a more rationale approach applicable for decades to come.

What was inconsistent becomes consistent, what was time-consuming becomes straight-forward, what was erratic becomes predictable for both the Town administration and development

communities.

Consider what might have already been achieved in Farragut had this been done 15 years ago? McFee, Evans, Union and other roads upgraded years before? More sports fields and greenways? A community center already?

Finally, it would be wise to have such a policy already in place if proposed re-examination of the Town’s Urban Growth Boundary one day leads to annexation of further undeveloped land.

Assessing impact fees will simplify and expedite upgrading roads, parks and recreational facilities in Farragut.

If we build it better and do it faster, the enhanced infrastructure and heightened quality of life in Farragut will only increase its residential and commercial appeal.

I intend to support the proposed ordinance with amendment providing for phased implementation of the impact fees.

 

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