Officials Lobby On Impact Fees

Posted: June 21, 1990

Four Newtown Township public officials took a grass-roots lobbying effort to Harrisburg last week, urging state Rep. Matthew J. Ryan (R-Delaware) to support amendments to legislation on impact fees scheduled for a House vote on Tuesday..

Joining officials from other growing townships who lobbied their legislators for fair and workable impact fee legislation were William E. Coe, vice chairman of the township board of supervisors; Supervisors Paul Russell and Suzanne Mathes, and Township Manager Larry Comunale.

"We're always concerned about a bill that is written by the builders," Russell said. "We tried to protect our township."

The Newtown delegation expressed concern that without amendements, House Bill 1361 would have township taxpayers footing the bill for some improvements associated with new development. The township does not have an impact fee ordinance, Russell said, but negotiates "a lot of things" with developers. ''This bill could be a threat to our negotiating power in the future," he said.

The township officials objected that the proposed legislation addressed transportation impact fees only and that it restricted transportation improvements to five-square-mile sections within a development, even if the impact occurred farther from the building site.

The supervisors also protested requirements that an appeals board be appointed by the county council to mitigate disputes, and that an advisory council, which would advise township supervisors about impact fees, should include at least a 40 percent representation from the real estate industry.

Debra Tingley, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Builders Association, said that the association had its own concerns with the pending legislation and was working to support amendments.

Tingley said township supervisors were sending mixed messages.

"We have supported this legislation for three years," she said. ''Everytime it comes up before the General Assembly, township officials try to stop it, yet they say they need impact fees."

"We always said we will pay our fair share," she said.

Tingley said that since all impact fees in Pennsylvania were illegal "at this point," the builders were making a major concession by agreeing to have even transportation impact fees - which are specially addressed by House Bill 1361 - legalized.

Newtown Township is supporting amendments proposed by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. In a position paper dated June 12, the association supported legislation to authorize a "fair and flexible method" of assessing impact fees on development.

But in the end, Ryan said, "I rather think it will compromise out and will pass."

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