By Mark Waite
Nye County commissioners Tuesday extended a moratorium on impact fees another year, though the first year moratorium didn’t do much to encourage building in Pahrump.
The bill will also allow developers to pay impact fees in installments, instead of up front, should the moratorium end.
“It was the belief of many that the ability to attract new business was hampered by the imposition of impact fees,” County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said. But she questioned the benefit.
The county commission can still approve individual development agreements for improvements.
County Manager Pam Webster said in fiscal year 2010-11 the county realized $99,868 in impact fees, in fiscal year 2011-12 it dropped to $26,000.
Commissioner Butch Borasky, who asked to extend the moratorium, said one year is a short period of time and the U.S. is finally coming out of the recession. “I asked to put it on the agenda , we ask for one more year and by the end of the year that will be the end of it.”
Interim Community Development Director Darrell Lacy said the committee revising the Pahrump master plan is suggesting impact fees be priced lower in the central core area of town to encourage development there where infrastructure won’t be so expensive.
“The impact fees are a very small part of the cost of development for a commercial project. That’s what we’re trying to do is encourage jobs,” Lacy said. “We’re looking at every option we can for creating jobs for this valley and for bringing business.”
Commissioner Dan Schinhofen said, “I will support this but the facts aren’t showing that we’ve had a jump in construction . As far as coming out of it, we’re going back into another recession, I don’t see any change coming.”
Commissioner Frank Carbone said the county is looking at several prospective businesses today, but infrastructure issues on top of impact fees may turn them away.
“I hope we keep the door open as long as we can, make it visible to outsiders we are doing what we can to lure businesses to our community,” Carbone said.
Wichman said the impact fees are for services the county has to pay when a business comes in, like maintaining roads to access that business. Wichman said without an impact fee the cost of those impacts falls on the taxpayers, but she didn’t favor an across the board fee that’s nebulous and isn’t tied to what it’s costing the taxpayer.
Lacy said it would be costly to do a cost of service study on the impacts of different types of businesses.
Ordinance No. 302, the impact fee ordinance passed in 2005 at the height of the building boom, levied a $1,962 impact fee on the cost of building a residence. Of that $1,298 went toward streets, $359 for parks, $167 for the fire and rescue service and $137 for the sheriff’s department.
Commercial projects were charged a fee ranging from 15 cents per square feet for 25,000 square feet or less to eight cents per square foot for a commercial/shopping center of 400,000 or more square feet. Office projects were charged an impact fee ranging from seven cents to four cents per square foot, depending on the size. An impact fee of 41 cents per square foot was charged for non-hotel casinos.
The Nye County School District imposes a $1,600 residential construction tax in addition to the county.
Tyson Smith, the county’s law firm used for drawing up development agreements, told commissioners in June 2010 if there was no new growth there would be no need to collect impact fees. But if there were impact fees prior to 2005 when there was significant growth, the county would have collected money to mitigate the impacts.
The law firm cautioned the county could end up refunding impact fees to developers who already paid them before the moratorium. They also suggested the county assess gaps in capital improvement funding that could result from a moratorium.
Tyson Smith’s assessment said the inventory of residential and non-residential buildings in Pahrump is sufficient to accommodate three years of growth, meaning a moratorium would be unlikely to result in increased building activity. They added private sector firms tend to locate in a community more on workforce characteristics and overall quality of life than on fee and tax burdens.
The Tyson Smith report said county impact fees comprised only one-fourth of total development charges paid by residential developers and one-third of charges by non-residential developers.
The county treasurer’s office reported there was $3.37 million in the impact fee fund as of Dec. 31, impact fee funds paid by a developer have to be spent within 10 years. The Capital Improvements Plan advisory committee prioritizes projects using impact fee money, impact fees were used to reconstruct Homestead Road.