Impact fees still an option
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
Madison City Council members heard an update on the impact fee adoption process from consultant Bill (“the younger”) Ross at their regular meeting Monday.
The city has yet to determine whether or not it wishes to implement an impact fee program, but it is going through the legal steps to do so in the event that members of the impact fee committee recommend such a policy and the council sees fit to move forward.
Ross presented an impact fee methodology report to the council, a document that strives to attach dollar figures to prospective capital improvement projects that might conceivably become funded by future impact fees.
“The impact fee methodology report…looks at fire, parks, police, and roads, and attempts to determine how much of the costs of those departments can be shifted onto future growth,” said Ross.
The report takes as its baseline current levels of service in those four particular areas or departments and calculates how much it would cost to provide that same level of service to an increased population.
Ross and council members spoke at some length about a proposed bypass around Madison, a road project discussed by the impact fee committee primarily because it is the only projected road project with growth statistics and dollar figures attached to it.
The bypass project is not likely to be seen in the final capital improvements element of any impact fee program unless council members deem that a project likely to come to fruition, and no council member voiced an opinion on that possibility at the Monday night meeting.
City planning staff members do plan to speak with engineers who conducted a recent traffic study of Madison to determine whether further impact fee-appropriate data can be extracted from the study.
The council plans to have at least two further called meetings or work sessions regarding the methodology study and its findings over the next month.
In other business, the council approved unanimously (Mayor Tom DuPree was not present at Monday’s meeting, and Bank of Madison Board member and council member Whitey Hunt recused himself from discussions) an intergovernmental agreement with the Madison Downtown Development Authority (DDA). With this agreement, the city guarantees a $1.4 million-dollar loan to the DDA for funds needed to complete construction of the new Town Park event center being built just south of Main Street in downtown Madison. As soon as funds are in place, construction on a pavilion and renovations to the historic cottage at the edge of the park are expected to commence.
The council acknowledged that it will have to adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the implementation of an expanded billboard program for the city of Madison. The proposed Interstate 20 billboards, which would cost approximately $31,000 annually, could be funded by an increase in the hotel/motel tax paid by overnight visitors to the area; but any such tax increase would have to be approved by the state legislature, which will not sit again until January. In the meantime, city and chamber officials will discuss the proposed tax increase with local hoteliers.
“We’ll get a plan of action together,” said Madison Main Street director Ann Huff. Even if the tax increase is approved and enacted, local tourism officials will probably not receive revenues from such an increase for at least 18 months.
In planning news, Planning Director Monica Callahan noted that three city properties have been approached by local boards under the auspices of the city’s demolition by neglect ordinance. Two of the properties are located on West Jefferson Street just south of the railroad; one is on Main Street.
“This is the start of a process, not the end of a process,” noted Callahan. “We’re working with these property owners to stabilize—not renovate—these properties.”
Finally, council members swore in Municipal Judge Charles Merritt and City Attorney Joe Reitman, both of whom were continuing terms of service with the city. Council members approved a $200-per-month pay raise (up to $1,300 per month) for the municipal judge, the first pay increase for that office in “at least ten years,” according to city manager David Nunn.