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Paying for impacts

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

As Truckee grows, so must its traffic system, but figuring out who pays for new streets and roads is proving to be a challenge.

The Truckee Town Council last week considered an increase in traffic-impact fees charged to new development that help pay for road projects needed to keep up with growth. The Council is considering optio2ns that could more than double the fee, drawing vocal opinions from area contractors, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and local developers.

Key issues in the debate so far include possible exemptions for government development and affordable-housing projects.

Facilities Director John Britto of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District presented reasons why school districts should be exempt from paying a traffic impact fee when constructing new schools.

According to Britto at Thursday’s council hearing:

– Fees assigned to the school district would be paid by the entire community, not just by developers, because school construction is funded by bonds paid by the entire community.

– Schools are a response to growth, not the cause of it.

– The school district already reduces traffic impact through its own transportation system. Britto said by busing students, the district eliminates the equivalent of 663 vehicle trips every day.

– Projects supported by the fee do not benefit the schools.

– School traffic doesn’t contribute to town peak-traffic times.

– Other communities waive traffic fees for school districts.

Additionally, Britto contended that exempting school projects on a case-by-case basis would create uncertainty, so a flat-out exemption would be more appropriate.

Executive Director Pat Davison of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe supported exemptions for affordable housing, but said the association doesn’t support similar breaks for government facilities.

The association supports waiving fees for affordable housing because the cost of the fee may be passed on to the home buyer, she said.

Davison also said contractors dispute how responsible new developments are for traffic congestion. Fees charged projects like the Mousehole, the Donner Pass Road/ Glenshire Drive intersection, the third Tahoe Donner connector, and the Donner Pass Road/ Highway 89 south intersection, should be supplemented from other sources.

“We do not agree with the assignment of responsibility, and we are asking for recognition of some responsibility of the town,” Davison said.

Town Public Works Director Dan Wilkins said a third street access to Tahoe Donner would use $19.5 million in traffic-impact fees and $4 million from developments directly on the new route. Similarly, the Glenshire/ Donner Pass Road re-alignment would use $3.9 million from traffic fees and $2 million from the Railyard development.

The portion of the proposed Mousehole traffic improvements to paid by traffic-impact fees would require an increase of $189 per unit for all new development, Wilkins said.

Valerie Green, owner of the Knight’s Crossing development, said that commercial development should pay a different fee than residential development.

“Like school, commercial development is a reaction to growth, not a cause of growth,” Green said.

Agreeing with the contractors association, she also said some of the projects to be funded by traffic-impact fees are already needed, and not required by new development.

Green also suggested a bond measure to help with road improvements might help.

Bob French, a Truckee-based developer, said a development’s potential to reduce traffic, by shortening trips for example, should be taken into consideration with the fee.

Affordable housing should be exempt, because housing prices are a responsibility of the community at large, rather than just developers, he said.

Council members Josh Susman, Carolyn Wallace Dee and Mark Brown spoke in favor of a case-by-case test to exempt government building from the fee, depending on whether the development is a result of growth, or a cause of it.

“I support a case-by-case based on use,” said Wallace Dee. “The school is forced to react to growth, but it’s not just the school district ” so does the [Truckee Donner Public Utility District].”

Susman said such a review would work well for the school, pointing out that the school hasn’t paid any traffic-impact fees to Truckee to date.

Mayor Richard Anderson suggested some guidelines be created to help decide whether a government building project would be exempt.

If the project enhances services provided by that government agency, it should pay the fee, he said, while if the new project is to meet an existing need, it should be waived.

Wallace Dee also said she favored subsidizing affordable housing developments ” not requiring affordable housing as a condition of approving a larger development.

Traffic-impact fees are calculated on the traffic a new development is expected to generate. The base fee represents the traffic generated by a three-bedroom home, or its equivalent.

Charge per unit

Current: $2,450

Proposed, no exemptions: $5,169

If affordable housing is exempt: $5,513

If government is exempt: $5,412

If schools only are exempt: $5,218

If government and affordable housing are exempt: $5,756


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