Heights Council Approves Wastewater Impact Fee | Local News
HARKER HEIGHTS — Harker Heights City Council has passed a sewage impact fee for new developments in the southeast part of town, following a second public hearing on the matter.
Council members on Tuesday, by a 3-2 vote, approved the assessment and collection of $6,133 per unit of service – defined as the service equivalent for a water connection to a single-family residence – for offset some of the expected cost of wastewater infrastructure for new developments.
Fees are assessed at the time a development is flat and collected when permits are withdrawn.
Approval of the collection rate of $6,133 was far from certain.
Since the first public hearing on Feb. 22, city staff had worked with developers to advance a proposal to value the developments at $6,133 per unit, but collect only $4,031 per unit.
However, at Tuesday’s public hearing, Harker Heights businessman Scot Arey expressed his displeasure with the reduced rate, noting that the city was facing budget issues, in part due to the lack of state refund of 100% property tax exemption for disabled veterans. He claimed giving the lower rate to developers would only push the cost of infrastructure onto city ratepayers.
Upon obtaining a motion of approval, Councilor Michael Blomquist instead moved a revised motion to approve the initial collection rate of $6,133. He asked Director of Planning and Development Kristina Ramirez what the city would do if revenue ran out when it came time to build sewage treatment infrastructure in a new development. Ramirez responded that the city should move money from another fund or, in the case of a large project, possibly issue a bond.
Blomquist noted that “nothing is free” and told developers that the full assessed fee would not be a burden – noting that in the case of a 4,000 square foot home, this works out to around $1.25. the square foot.
After Blomquist moved to approve the impact fee at the originally proposed collection rate, there was a long silence before Councilman Sam Halabi seconded the motion.
Both council members Jackeline Soriano Fountain and Lynda Nash voted against Blomquist’s motion, but since Jennifer McCann was not present due to an excused absence, it fell to Mayor Spencer Smith to break the tie, and he sided with Blomquist and Halabi, pushing the motion over the top. .
Prior to Blomquist’s proposal, two local developers appeared before council to thank city staff for working to change the fee structure and propose the lower collection rate of $4,031.
Developer Josh Welch said, “We’re supporting advancement with this amount.”
Dustin King spoke after Welch saying, “I would like to thank the staff for going over the fees with us. I ask the board to consider an additional year before putting this in place.
The assessment of the impact fee, as approved on Tuesday, takes effect immediately. However, according to state law, the city cannot begin collecting the levy until one year after it is enacted.
Ramirez explained Wednesday that fees will not be in effect for building permits filed over the next year, although assessments are still taking place. The city will begin collecting for any permits withdrawn after the one-year mark, as well as any redevelopment of properties permitted before fee collection begins.
According to a sewage impact fee study report prepared for the city by Austin engineering firm Freese and Nichols Inc., only 125 water connections are expected in the area. impact fee service in 2022. Taking into account current growth projections, the study predicts 1,500 connections by 2032.
In April 2021, the city authorized Freese and Nichols to perform an impact fee analysis for the southeast portion of the city’s sewer system. The study also looked at possible improvements to provide the wastewater treatment capacity needed for new developments.
These improvements include the expansion of a $31 million, 5.3 million gallons per day wastewater treatment plant, a proposed $6.3 million lift station and a gravity pipeline. at a cost of $10.5 million.
The study determined that the total eligible capital improvement costs, plus financing costs, over the next 10 years would be $16,915,489. The Texas Local Government Code allows municipalities to determine impact fees based on the total cost of capital improvements divided by the number of service units assigned to new development during the eligibility period.
The maximum allowable costs would cover 50% of the projected capital improvement costs.
According to the report’s summary, as part of developing the Impact Fee, Freese and Nichols held workshops with the city’s appointed Capital Improvements Advisory Committee and City Council. The role of the advisory committee was to review land use assumptions and CIP impact fees and recommend an impact fee rate to the board.
According to the outline accompanying Tuesday’s council agenda, the advisory committee on January 18 voted 8 to 0 to recommend approval of impact fee calculations relating to the possible adoption of an impact fee for the designated area up to the maximum authorized amount of $6,133 per unit of service. . The panel’s vote was based on the recommendations and findings of city staff.
To comply with state law, the city must recalculate the impact fee at least every five years, based on adjustments to its land use assumptions and capital improvement plans.