On 21 September, in a surprising reversal of its Planning Committee recommendation two weeks previous, the County Council voted five to four to defeat the long-anticipated Impact Fee legislation.
Despite the obvious need (expressed by almost everyone even remotely involved on this issue) to revamp the current ineffective ‘fair-share’ system, despite the benefit of continuous support (free of charge by the way) from the experts originally contracted by the County to study an Impact Fee, despite a further three page listing of suggested recommendations from the County’s Planning Director received only on 19 September, despite growing public approval for an Impact Fee proposal, and despite repeated explanations countering the numerous misunderstandings of some opponents, the Council terminated Bill 304 at First Reading.
Disappointment is the prevailing sentiment that characterizes this vote. I’m disappointed that as a Council we are unable to address adequately the difficult issues that have plagued us repeatedly over the years. I’m not necessarily convinced that my proposal is the best, but I do know that impact fees work, they have been adopted by literally thousands of communities that faced the same infrastructure shortfalls as Hawaii County does now, and development has not stopped in any of those communities. If Council members don’t like my idea, then what other alternatives do they suggest? State law has allowed us to adopt impact fees for the past 18 years. How long must residents wait? If not now, when will we be courageous enough to create an effective system to address these shortfalls??
Another irony of the situation is that the Council on many occasions has called for administration recommendations regarding impact fees, urging a partnership to resolve this issue. I recognize that the detailed listing of recommendations received on two occasions recently from the Planning Department did not necessarily represent administration approval of this impact fee proposal, but it would seem to reflect a willingness to work with Council and to discuss a controversial topic. I would have anticipated that the Council would be willing to advance that discussion rather than cut it short.
Impact Fees, if adopted, would not suddenly make the County healthy. It would, however, permit the County to employ a funding mechanism which has proven successful in communities nationwide. Failure to pass this legislation either dooms County residents to continued shortfalls in essential facilities or insures that higher taxes will be the only remedy available to correct those deficiencies. Those taxes affect all residents; rich, poor, and everyone in-between, not just those that cause the increased impact.
Simply put, the defeat of the Impact Fee legislation translates into higher taxes for all or inadequate infrastructure. Disappointing to say the least. Our residents deserve better.
A final comment: In the aftermath of this vote, I fear the perception will linger that the Council remains more concerned about potential election results than resolving key issues. Ask yourselves: when will the Council take the lead and make the tough decisions?? I believe we missed a great opportunity on 21 September.
- Commentary: Councilman Pete Hoffman on Impact Fee Urban Legends (damontucker.com)
- Why Did The Hawaii County Council Reject Impact Fees Again? (aaronstene.com)
- Poulsbo considers changes to impact fees (kitsapsun.com)
- On the air, Corbett calls for impact fee (philly.com)