Impact-fee Costs Are Assailed

Posted: January 31, 1991

Residents in Upper Gwynedd Township will be paying more for improvements to road and recreational facilities, courtesy of the state legislature, according to Upper Gwynedd officials.

Township Manager Leonard T. Perrone and Township Solicitor Robert J. Kerns told the Board of Commissioners Monday that the recently passed Act 209 and Act 203 that regulate the amount of impact fees that municipalities can charge developers will only mean more expense to the taxpayers.

"This bill could be called the Full Employment for Traffic Consultants and Land Planners Bill," Kerns said. "I don't know of any municipality in the area that will be helped by this."

According to Kerns, all municipalities will have to pass an ordinance in compliance with Acts 209 and 203 in order to impose an impact fee. To get to the point of passing the ordinance, Upper Gwynedd could spend up to $75,000 and two years on the required land-use surveys, traffic studies, public hearings and legislation drafting, he said.

If the township passes the ordinance, the decision on the amount of an impact fee will be made by a board of seven residents, three of them builders or developers. Municipalities are prohibited from assessing fees for recreational improvements and may only impose traffic fees based on limited traffic impact, he explained.

"It passed with an overwhelming majority in the House. This was an election year, a year when campaign contributions had a lot of impact," Kerns said.

Perrone said he had asked traffic consultant Andy Heinrich and land planner E. Van Reiker to submit proposals detailing how much the township would have to pay for the background studies required for the ordinance. He said he hoped to have some results for the Feb. 25 meeting.

"If we spend $70,000 to find out we're only going to get $50,000 (in impact fees), it doesn't make sense," said Commissioner James A. Santi. ''This law ties our hands."

Kerns said that Upper Gwynedd had never been sued by a developer for onerous impact fees and that the new law makes the idea of negotiating with developers "meaningless." He said the board was not required to pass the ordinance, but that without it, it would be illegal to impose any impact fees.

"This is going to cost the people in Upper Gwynedd more money. You have to evaluate if it's worth it."

The board also passed an ordinance that prohibits any open burning of garbage or solid waste. Residents are still allowed to burn leaves and yard waste during April and November. However, Commissioner Roger L. Poirier noted that if the township finds an answer to its trash collection problems, "I'll be totally against burning leaves and grass, too."

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