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letters to the editor


Markli rebutts Rosseel, ‘Tuffy’ reaction, Free speech questioned

Markli rebutts Rosseel



Thank you Mr. [Thomas] Rosseel [alderman] for responding to my letter and opening a public dialog on the issue of impact fees. I don’t wish to flog a dead horse, but notwithstanding the apparent lack of public support for the measure, the closeness of the vote suggests that there are determined forces bent on forcing this new tax on the Town. So I address my remarks to my neighbors in Farragut because, in the larger sense, this issue is about how Farragut will face its future. Will we do it in a discriminatory and deceitful way that burdens our children and grandchildren with a tax that none of their parents or grandparents had to pay for the privilege of living in Farragut and which will place a hurdle in the path of their home-ownership? Will we put further burdens on businesses wanting to locate in our town and thus further strangle one of our major and recurring revenue streams in favor of a short-sighted, “one-time fee”, effectively killing the goose that laid the golden egg? Or will we instead look to answer the question Mr. Rosseel inadvertently raised when he stated accurately that major businesses like Wal-Mart, Target, Colonial Pinnacle Center and Pinnacle Theater chose to locate in Knoxville and pay their city tax, rather than locate in Farragut?

In his letter, it is ironic that Mr. Rosseel states his intent to “set the record straight” on “a series of unsupported claims and misstatements” which he alleges I made and then sets about doing exactly the opposite. I doubt I could have better made my own case than he does. He even goes so far as to misquote and torture an unintended meaning from an article (the only source he quotes to back up any of his assertions and presumptions) in the Oct. 16, 2006, Knoxville Journal in which Mike Stevens adamantly opposes Impact Fees and in which they are specifically called taxes.

First, let’s be very clear about one thing, semantic charades aside, Impact Fees are a tax. Pure and simple. They fit the definition of a tax in every sense. They are a levy imposed by government on private individuals to pay for those tasks delegated to the government by the citizens. Employing the euphemism of “fee” does not change that fact. It is a tax the same as automobile license plates, property taxes, and yes even building permit fees are taxes. Having spent my entire adult life in construction, real estate and development, I am intimately familiar with Impact Fees. Originally they were devised as a way to impose a moratorium on construction and development. To say they don’t slow the sale of homes or the velocity of development is to ignore one of the most fundamental laws of economics, which states that to diminish consumption of a product, you tax it or raise prices on it. Harley Davidson Motor Company thoroughly understood this concept when they lobbied Congress to impose tariffs on foreign motorcycles to help them compete in the marketplace.

Impact Fees have led a relatively short and sordid history being the darling of those wishing to increase the reach and grasp of government and stifle property rights, or of those wishing to slow development. In many jurisdictions, like Ogden, Utah, for example, they have been held unlawful by the courts and have been forcibly repealed because they could not be shown to cover only costs that are specifically and uniquely attributable to new construction. The costs of infrastructure and facilities that serve the entire community, such as primary roads, libraries, parks and schools should be spread over the entire community which uses and benefits from them.

Secondly, let’s lay aside the notion that “development doesn’t pay its fair share.” Development is the creation of value that turns under utilized fallow land to a higher and better use. In its better form it is the skillful crafting of the raw materials at hand into something useful and beneficial to society. It is what creates, as Adam Smith called it in his monumental tome, “The Wealth of Nations.” Every development that I have participated in in Farragut paid for its new streets, curbs and gutters, street lights, parks, sidewalks, storm water and detention facilities, street trees and landscaping, sewers, water mains, gas and electric systems, etc. without one penny in public assistance. To state that development doesn’t pay its fair share is ludicrous. As we lose the creative instinct, we become more and more a nation whose only contribution is to press each other’s pants and flip each other’s burgers while the “developing nations” press forward industriously and begin to eclipse us.

Further, to cynically state, as one caller to presstalk did, that “a couple thousand dollar impact fee is just one or two percent … . That is not a big deal” is the height of “I got mine but you can’t have any” exclusionary rhetoric and underscores the appeal of this form of taxation. A new study released by the National Association of Home Builders and based on national mortgage underwriting standards and incorporating the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, contains detailed results for more than 300 U.S. metro areas, and shows empirically that each $1,000 increase in the cost of a new median priced home forces 217,000 prospective buyers out of the market. The study further showed that the increase in the price of a home would generally be 22 percent more than the increase in the governmental fee because other costs such as financing and broker commissions rise in tandem. Therefore, the proposed $3,600 Impact Fee would really raise the price of a new home in Farragut by $4,392. Then you add to that the increased property taxes and the cost of the mortgage over its life and the real cost is more like $10,000! Not a big deal? Perhaps this caller would like to pay that for my children and the half-million other Americans who would be priced out of the market by such taxes. (“Metro Area House Prices and Affordability,” Special Studies, July 18, 2007, by Elliott F. Eisenberg, PhD.)

Lastly, no one has shown any evidence that we truly NEED this new tax. The Town is in sound financial shape and has no debt and those in a position to know assure us that we do not need such a tax. So the question is will we continue to pay as we go or will we mortgage the future by spending our children’s money on the things we want now. We want parks? We have more and better than any other area I know of. Where is the real justification for another tax, another burden on the people? I would like to see some real hard evidence to support this supposed “need.” Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater and pursue short-sighted, regressive means based on flimsy arguments.

The real issue I believe is that we are all tired of mindless sprawl and the wasteful use of resources and infrastructure. Let’s address those issues by looking at our zoning and building codes. One excellent way is the embrace of “The New Urbanism” which the Town has had the vision to codify in the new Town Center Zoning Ordinance. Let’s look at ways to create value not add burdens. If we want high quality development, let’s create it intentionally, not seek to stifle it with deceitful, regressive, discriminatory, “behind the tree” taxes. I would welcome some constructive dialog in these pages along these lines.

In closing, I once more salute our faithful and far-sighted elected mayor and aldermen who resisted this latest attempt to undermine the principles which have made this town great.



Sincerely,

Bob Markli

Farragut



‘Tuffy’ reaction



I read with amusement the article about the possible Tuffy Store at the corner of Newport Drive and Kingston Pike.

I have lived in the Stonecrest [subdivision] since 1989. Back then there was a Texaco Gas Station on that corner.

No one was crying an alarm about traffic problems back then.

We already have major traffic problems at this section of Kingston Pike.

Since 1989, Farragut has added more subdivisions with more people and more cars. Even without a new business opening, something needs to be done to that section of Kingston Pike.

More often the [times] I would like to leave Stonecrest, I am force to turn right (westbound) onto Kingston Pike. The traffic is too heavy and too fast to turn left (eastbound) onto Kingston Pike.

What is needed for this section of Kingston Pike, dare I say it, is a traffic light(s). Some combination of lights at Newport Drive and either Thornton Drive or Brampton Road would work. These lights would allow people to safely turn onto Kingston Pike, east or west, and would slow down traffic overall.

Traffic lights would make this section of Kingston Pike safer and easier to negotiate. Also Tuffy could have their store.



Thank You,

Bill Holland

Farragut

P.S. I never saw a petition.



Free speech questioned



Hurrah for Michele Donnelly on her letter to you regarding your decision to publish a call to presstalk, which, in her opinion, is slanderous.

I also feel that the opinion contained slanderous verbiage, as well as inaccuracies. …

You regularly inform readers that you will not publish opinions that contain slanderous, libelous or offensive language, yet you did just that in your Oct. 18 issue. Shame on you!



Faye H. Eisenacher

Farragut

 

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