This is extremely disappointing. First, here is an article the Morning Call posted tonight. And here is the WFMZ article which delves just a little deeper. We have two issues:
1. The fact that this just came out now. These fees have been discussed as part of the township narrative regarding Hamilton Crossings for almost 3 years. How on earth can we just be discovering now that the fees don’t apply? I am having trouble wrapping my head around that.
Was all the talk about waiving the fees purely theater by the former BOC? Was this always just a bullet point to try to convince County Commissioners LMT had ‘skin in the game’? Was this always just posturing by township officials on behalf of the developer?
2. The ramifications of the township traffic impact fee ordinance. (TIFO) The 2009 TIFO was enacted by the first appointed BOC so that the township could address traffic issues associated with hyper growth on a global scale. The alternative is to piece-meal improvements together one development at a time. Credit should be given to Commissioner Doug Brown who was one of the drivers of the impact fee.
Traffic Impact Fees: Here is a great 101
What the impact fee theoretically should have allowed us to do was collect a dedicated fee that could be used in various township wide (the study breaks the township into two zones) to address big picture traffic problems on a township wide scale. The problem is the 2010 board never seemed to have buy-in. It should never have been waived for the Jaindl rezoning and the Hamilton Crossings deal should never have been struck without accounting for it’s collection.
As an example to how the fee works. Hamilton Crossings has to (no matter what) mitigate the traffic caused by the center to get certain required PENNDOT approvals. This is the baseline for any project. It has to happen. But these improvements rarely address the regional issues or the cumulative impacts of multiple projects.
If we would collect the full 2.7 million dollar fee from Hamilton Crossings we could use that money to address the half dozen or so “pinch points” identified in the 2009 impact study. This allows us to address not only the problems directly adjacent to the center but problems that are a result of hyper growth in general. This money could be used right away or banked for 10 years or until the study is updated. (an update which is sorely needed since we’ve grown faster then the plan predicted)
So now that apparently the impact fee is all the sudden moot, I believe this is more reason that the township should not participate in the TIF and lose 50% of the new revenue over the next 20 years. This is most certainly money we will regret giving up 10 years from now when the township is reeling from congestion issues.
UPDATE: Paraphrased from a conversation with a member of the 2008 Traffic impact fee committee.
The seeds of the issue were planted in early 2008 when the court-appointed commissioners, following the recommendation of Commissioner Doug Brown, started the process to generate a transportation impact fee. I think that the intent to establish the fee may have been advertised, but a resolution creating the Transportation Impact Fee Advisory Committee (TIFAC) was never presented or passed. The responsibility for this major error was never assigned to the Commissioners, nor to the then solicitor, (Blake Marles) Interim township manager or the paid TIFAC consultants. After the advertisement of the ordinance in March 2009, Atty. Zator discovered the error, and all of the previous action of the TFIAC and township was nullified.As a note, this fee then was much larger than the one now in place. The township scrambled to restart the process correctly by creating the committee anew on April 16, 2009, but before it could, many development plans flooded in during the window of opportunity, thus avoiding any future impact fees. I was not aware that Hamilton Crossings plans was among them.