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Colorado Springs considers new fee system to better manage expanding public safety services

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- With the amount of growth and the number of annexation requests continuing to increase in Colorado Springs, officials have proposed a plan to better manage that growth while reducing the city's cost of expanding police and fire protection to new areas.

But the plan could mean that people will pay more for already-expensive new housing.

City of Colorado Springs

The city staff's idea is to replace the existing annexation fee -- assessed as part of annexation agreements and based on the gross acreage of the annexation -- with an impact fee that would apply to all development across the city.

The impact fee would be structured into tiers based on whether a development is residential, commercial, or industrial; the development's density or intensity of use; and the demand for public safety services.

KRDO

City staff says that the proposed fee could charge developers up to twice what they already pay, but that it would allow the city to recoup 70% of its costs for expanding public safety services -- most of which currently come from the general fund budget.

According to a presentation to the city planning commission Thursday by Charae McDaniel, the city's chief financial officer, the city's share of paying for expanded services is expected to reach 57% this year -- an increase of 6% since 2013.

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McDaniel said that much of the development growth, and a corresponding rise in calls for police or fire services, are concentrated in and around the Stetson Hills area on the city's northeast side.

The city's ten-year needs assessment, McDaniel said, calls for as many as seven new fire stations and equipment, three new police substations, and around 100,00 square feet of support facilities.

City of Colorado Springs

"Currently, over a ten-year period, the annexation fee collected about $2 million, and the proposed impact fee we're estimating, over a ten-year-period, will collect about $45 million dollars," she explained.

KRDO

The impact fee would apply only to new development areas and not cover backlogged needs from existing development -- among them, three fire stations, a training facility and office space for the fire department, and an expansion of the police crime lab.

City staff says that the impact fee would equally spread out the cost of growth to developers, and prevent the need to charge user fees or raise taxes for residents who don't want to pay for it.

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The impact fee plan also would establish a mayor's committee to oversee the use of revenue, consisting of five members -- a commercial development expert, a residential development expert, a land-use planning expert, and two at-large members.

The planning commission endorsed the plan Thursday, despite concern about developers passing along increased costs to homebuyers in a market where housing is already expensive and hard to acquire.

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"I just hate to see us do things that add to the cost of housing, and then turn around and say -- boy, I wish housing didn't cost so much," said Commissioner Scott Hente. "But that's just a philosophical thing that I'll get through."

Andrea Barlow, a member of the Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association, said that the HBA had negotiated with the city about the new fee for several years.

KRDO

"At a time with inflation and building materials costing more and being in limited supply, it's not the best time for a fee increase," she said. "From an HBA perspective, having a safe community is critical to being an attractive place for people to live in. So it all goes hand-in-hand."

Some residents are unhappy to hear that the new fee will likely result in higher home prices.

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"To be told this today, and to be told that in the next 3 to 5 years, this is how we'll cover costs?" said Lisa Davis. "Even with utilities, it's never accurate -- especially with the inflation rate that we see. So I'm very cautionary about all of it."

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Donald Mahan suggested that people living in high-growth areas should pay a tax for more public safety services.

"That would be the smartest move that you could go with," he said. "Charge the people in the area who are living there, and (it's) not so much a burden for everybody."

KRDO

The City Council is expected to discuss the impact fee during a work session later this month.

Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

Comments

12 Comments

  1. I’m sure City council will vote on what provides them the most financial gain.

  2. And they wanted to hire a city art director a month ago. We are living in a blue bubble now.

    1. no we are living in an old white f a r t bubble.
      Not much different than DC.
      AGE LIMITATIONS FOR EVERY ELECTED OFFICIAL

      1. Totally correct. By age, city council won’t be around to see the damage they have done while in office.
        – Destroyed economy for the lowest 30% of wage earners in the city.
        – Closed economical power plant Drake.
        – Doubled energy and water cost.
        Zero concern for our children’s future here.

  3. Yes! What you people don’t understand is all the residents that have been living here are subsidizing public safety for new developments. This fee puts the cost where it belongs. New development, pay for your public safety needs. Period!

    1. I agree. It’s time for new services to be paid for by those who create the need for the increases. For too long, all residents have been paying for expansions due entirely to new developments, while the developers and new residents don’t pay any part of the expansion costs. For once, it seems the council has done something right!

  4. How about we start with a basic universal fee and then charge a user fee. I have called 911 once in my entire life. The fire station near me has a sign that says something like 600+ service calls in a month. That is simply insane. How many of those calls are unnecessary? Start charging for non emergency calls or start handing out tickets.

    1. Emergency services are like insurance. They’re something you hope you never need, but when you do, there’s no substïtute, especially when your life is at stake.

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