Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely today stood on a bumpy graveled portion of West Adams Street that leads to new homes in northwest Lincoln to drive home the need for impact fees to be passed Monday by the City Council.
"The washboard-like graveled West Adams Street is an example of how big the funding gap for extending arterial streets really is and why impact fees are needed," said Mayor Wesely. "The City has fallen so far behind that the City is not scheduled to pave this street for another six years. Itís less safe than a paved road, itís dusty, and itís a daily problem for the residents.
"This is the wrong way to build our community. If impact fees had been in place, West Adams would have been paved much sooner because the street fees would have helped pay for the improvements.
"West Adams is one of the main arterial streets for the new housing developments in this area of Lincoln, yet it remains unpaved west of Northwest 48th Street. I wish the City had the money to build this road when the housing development started because it would certainly be better for these new homeowners. Impact fees would have required a contribution toward improving the nearby arterial road like West Adams Street." The City Public Works and Utilities Department will take steps to control the dust on West Adams until the street is paved.
The Mayor noted that there are many other examples of the backlog of arterial street improvements needed to serve new areas, including 14th Street south of Old Cheney Road and Pine Lake Road between 40th and 56th streets. As with West Adams, these areas developed faster than the Cityís ability to fund street widening to handle the additional traffic.
"Critics have said impact fees will stop growth," said Mayor Wesely. "What stops growth is uncertainty and the inability to pay for new streets, water and sewer systems and parks. Impact fees are not the whole solution, but they are a fair way to share the costs between the new development and the taxpayer.
Lincolnís proposed impact fee is a one-time charge for new construction. The fee does not apply to existing houses, where the infrastructure is already built. The impact fee for single family homes begin at $2,500. Mayor Wesely has appointed an Infrastructure Finance Committee to suggest additional recommendations to close the funding shortage.
Mayor Wesely also countered criticism that impact fees will drive development out of town by pointing to infrastructure fees in nearby communities:
Mayor Wesely said radio ads claiming the impact fee will prevent people from buying homes are scare tactics designed to mislead the public.
"First of all, if the fictitious couple in the radio ad buys an existing home, there is no impact fee," said Mayor Wesely. "If the home buyer is truly low-income, the proposal includes provisions for a reduced impact fee or no impact fee. What the radio ads also do not tell you is that unless we have impact fees, taxpayers will cover the entire cost of new infrastructure through higher taxes and utility rates.
"The opponents are willing to pay for these radio ads because they want the taxpayer to continue paying the vast majority of the infrastructure costs to serve their new developments.
"Will that couple in the radio ad be able to buy a home when faced with higher and higher taxes and utilities rates? The fact is that I have held the line on the City property tax rate, and the impact fee will help hold the line on taxes and utility rates.
"We have spent several years examining alternatives and crafting compromises," said Mayor Wesely. "The impact fee proposal has the support of the community, including the Chamber of Commerce, developers and neighborhood associations. Itís time for the City Council to pass impact fees."