County headed in right direction with impact fees

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Residential and commercial developers in Falcon and Fountain recently found themselves at odds with El Paso County planners.

At issue was who should pay for transportation “oversizing.”

Oversizing is the term used to describe items such as turn lanes, gutters, curbs, sidewalks, traffic signals or streetlights that are in excess of the basic infrastructure work required from the county.

Sometimes the extra work is needed to handle the large traffic loads a development will create. But sometimes oversizing becomes an issue thanks to extra-wide residential arterioles, bike lanes and quaintly lit sidewalks.

Developers love to build all of these items on the county dollar. But thankfully the county isn’t going to go for that.

Planners are now working with developers on proposed transportation impact fees to pay for such oversizing.

As the proposal stands now, developers would pay per-trip fees based on expected traffic in a development.

The idea of using traffic impact fees is not a new one.

Counties and communities across the country have been using them for years. El Paso County is only now looking at them because growth during the last decade has seen the transformation of dirt roads into major thoroughfares like Woodmen, Marksheffel and Meridian roads.

Since 2000, the county alone has grown 17 percent to 244,000 people today.

And, even with plans for the 21,400-acre Banning Lewis Ranch stalled for the moment, it’s safe to say El Paso County will be a much busier place in the next 10 years.

With growth on tap, thoughtful, strategic planning is a must, and that’s what the proposed impact fees need now.

A community in Florida had to refund millions of dollars to developers this year after a lawsuit showed a faulty per-trip fee schedule allowed the government to overcharge. We applaud county planners for taking proactive action and with the impact fees, but we urge them to plan carefully.

These fees will be an important component of making growth pay for itself for many years down the road.