Archive for Thursday, August 12, 2004

Leaders look to equitably distribute cost of growth

August 12, 2004

When City Administrator Mike Yanez rattled off the names of new developments underway and the number of acres being considered for annexation during a growth meeting last month, it begged the question of who would pay for the infrastructure needed to put them in place.
As civic leaders began trying to answer that question in the beginning of a series of discussions about Eudora's growth July 22, the answer wasn't a simple one.
Although the idea came up that developers would have to pay for their contribution to Eudora's growth, civic leaders also addressed the notion that any process would have to be equitable.
"Sharing of costs needs to be fair for everybody," said city engineer Cecil Kingsley, adding that would be the city's toughest job.
Likewise, Yanez said it wouldn't be fair to lay infrastructure costs on one developer but that it would be wise for developers to band together.
Developer John McGrew, who said last month's growth meeting was long overdue, said the city could help developers by not changing rates or policies midstream.
"We want to be your partners in this," he said.
During Monday's Eudora City Council meeting, David Longhurst of Meadowlark Subdivision asked the Council to consider that neighborhood's contribution to city coffers through development fees. Longhurst cited $53,000 in "overhead" costs per house that weren't realized until the home was sold.
Longhurst said city leaders should consider development an asset in what it contributes both financially and toward the quality of life.
"Commercial development will follow the residential," Longhurst said. "Commercial developers consider rooftops and look at demographics. You don't need to do anything (to draw commercial development) if natural market forces are allowed to work."
At last month's growth meeting, Kingsley said the city would examine its rate structures on a yearly basis. Also, Mayor Ron Conner mentioned cost-benefit analyzes, which would analyze whether the city would gain more or lose more from building a certain number of houses.
However, much of the attention at last month's growth meeting was given to benefit districts that would be paid for by new development, with each additional development sharing the costs with the previous development. Such an arrangement means more growth lowers the costs to those invested by spreading it out over a larger pool.
"Folks who start it up have up-front costs but don't pay long-term costs," Kingsley said.
Yet leaders must keep in mind it was homeowners who really ended up paying for growing infrastructure, said Planning Commission Chairman Kurt von Achen.
"We don't want to price them out of the market," he said.
Council member Scott Hopson asked how homeowners could be certain to know about any benefit districts so as not to be surprised by them later.
For the time being, Kingsley said the city was caught up with growth, but the future challenge would be keeping up with growth.
"With new subdivisions, we're running out of capacity more quickly," he said.
A second growth meeting is planned next month. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at Eudora City Hall, 4 E. Seventh St.

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