Democracy on the Front Lines
City Administrator’s Blog
March 24, 2006
In Tuesday’s blog on the School Land Dedication Fees, I outlined how the City Council needs to answer three questions before it can vote on the proposed ordinance: (1) Is the fee justified?; (2) If so, how should the fee be calculated?; and (3) Under what conditions should the fee be approved? Although last night’s Community Development Committee meeting was not as productive as we had hoped, we did manage to answer one of those questions.
The fate of the meeting was sealed before the meeting began. Yesterday afternoon, we learned that the superintendents from OTHS, Central, and District 90 could not attend the meeting and the author of the demographic study could not be there either. I’m sure they all had very good reasons to be absent, but it meant that the conversation would be basically one-sided.
The home builders expressed their objections and questions to the schools’ studies, but there was no one there to answer the questions. Shiloh Superintendent Jennifer Filyaw did her best to address their concerns, but the questions were beyond her expertise. She needed the schools’ attorney and demographic consultant there.
As a result, most folks in attendance were disappointed and frustrated by the lack of progress. Committee Chairman Jerry Mouser stated he was hoping for an interactive dialogue between the schools and home builders, but that was impossible.
There was one point of consensus, however. The schools conceded they were comfortable with calculating the fee the same as the Park Land Dedication. Therefore, the value of land per acre will be around $59,000 instead of $142,500.
Why the disparity? The difference in land value stems from basic assumptions on how school land is acquired. The schools proposed a value per acre of $142,500 and here's why -- they calculated the value as the cost of a developed residential lot that has been platted, graded, and installed with the necessary infrastructure (water, sewer, stormwater, roads). If the schools wanted to buy land for a school in a subdivision that is already developed to this point, it would cost $142,500 per acre because they would be buying individual lots already developed for residential houses. This is the way other school land dedication ordinances have been structured, so it is not unreasonable for them to propose this formula.
However, this is not the way land is typically acquired for schools (or for parks or other public buildings). Schools usually look for raw land to purchase and they pay to have infrastructure extended to the land (as was done locally for Fulton Jr. High School, Moye School, the new OTHS site and the Central School Middle School site). In this model, all you need to know is the value of raw land (approx. $30,000/acre) and the cost to extend infrastructure to the site (approx. $29,000/acre). Thus, the value per acre is $59,000. This how we calculate the Park Land Dedication Fee, and it has been accepted both by our land use attorneys and by the home builders.
While there is a large disparity in land value, this probably will not have much effect on the actual fee assessed because the schools' proposal includes a multiplier. They proposed that only 38.5% of the maximum impact fee be assessed, which equates to about $3,500 per home depending on the number of bedrooms. If you assess the City's $59,000/acre at 100%, you get to about $3,000 to $3,500 per home. While we get to the same result, it is significant for consistency and defensibility in our subdivision ordinance.
There are still two questions to be answered, and the focus is squarely on #1 – Is a fee justified? The home builders don’t think so, so the schools will have to do some work to demonstrate the need. The Committee has tentatively scheduled another special meeting on Thursday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. to do this again. Hopefully, all of the interested parties will be there and we will make some progress.