PLAN-Boulder County Position on Affordable Housing Commercial Linkage Fees, Transportation Linkage Fees and Transportation Excise Taxes – February 2017

Sean KendallAffordable Housing

Jobs Housing Linkage Fees

The jobs housing linkage fees, as currently proposed at $12/square foot (for an office building), less than 10% of the amount established as justifiable ($129.49/square foot) by the economic analysis, will leave the major burden of providing affordable housing for new employees on the citizens of Boulder, who are doing nothing to create this problem, and so should not be tasked with paying for its solution.

PLAN Boulder recommends that the council set the Linkage Fees at a level that ensures that the majority of new employees that need help with housing affordability receive adequate assistance. This means that these fees should be set at close to the full cost that was determined by the economic analysis. The City’s initially proposed approach of using 39% of full cost, referred to as the “commuter adjustment”, should be the floor, not the ceiling.

While we are aware that our recommended “floor” will not “solve” the housing affordability problem created by commercial development, it is a lot better than the inadequate $12/square foot adopted by city council and would slow the rapid deterioration of the housing affordability situation.  

Transportation Linkage Fees and Excise Taxes

The proposed Transportation fees and excise taxes** are not based on a plan that will maintain levels of service, so there is no way to know if these fees and taxes are adequate to prevent traffic from becoming worse.

In addition, it is clear that  each development project needs to be required to implement additional strategies to prevent the already bad traffic situation from deteriorating further, such as providing Eco Passes, and/or van pools on a permanent basis. The Transportation staff should do the planning work to determine what charges and other requirements will ultimately need to be assigned to new development in order to keep levels of service from being degraded. The council should have a clear picture of the plan and implementation requirements before finalizing these fees and taxes.

**Transportation fees and excise taxes are intended to maintain levels of service such as travel times on arterials, or wait times at intersections.  In order to know if levels of service will be maintained by such fees and taxes, the service levels to be maintained must be identified, a plan developed to maintain those levels of service, the cost of the plan established and, and finally, there must be an assignment of the costs to development (and development projects) based on the transportation demand they create.  In the City’s analysis, they inappropriately only considered capital cost, not operating costs.  Since the City is not going to construct new roads or widen existing roads, modalities that are operating cost intensive, such as transit, are where the investment is required to maintain levels of service.

These steps have not been taken.  Thus, there is no plan and consequently, no funding mechanism established to mitigate the costs that developments impose on the City’s ability to maintain transportation levels of service.  The City does not know if the transportation fees or development excise taxes are adequate even to fund just the capital portion of the costs to maintain levels of service.  Further, the fees and taxes adopted do not address the operating portion of the costs of maintaining levels of service; operating cost are the major portion of the costs.  

PLAN Boulder County recommends that the council require that the staff develop a plan that maintains current levels of service and identify any changes that will need to be made to adopted transportation impact fees and excise taxes, as well as identify other development approval requirements that are critical to prevent increased traffic congestion. 

Capital Facility Impact Fees

The only capital facilities for which land costs were included in determining impact fees are Municipal Facilities and Fire. The economic analysis should have also included the cost of land in determining impact fees for facilities of other departments, including Library, Parks and Recreation, Human Services, and Police, using the “buy in” methodology. This will ensure that the citizens are paid back for assets they purchased and that are going to be shared with new development. The timing of expenditures should not affect the impact fee calculation.