Impact fees need to avoid courtroom |

Impact fees need to avoid courtroom

Impact fees have long been seen as a way to help make housing growth help pay for itself.

However, despite several efforts during the past three decades, the county is charging only three impact fees.

Those fees go to parks, schools and roads, and add $3,100 per building permit, according to Commission Chairman Barry Penzel.

In the go-go days of the 1990s and early aughts when Douglas County saw several hundred building permits a year, that added up to quite a bit of money.

Impact fees paid for improvements to Johnson Lane Park, and pretty much built Ranchos Aspen Park.

But with only 10 single family home permits issued during July, there isn’t a lot of cash for any sort of improvement.

Add to that changes in the law that requires the county to start any project within five years and finish it in 10 years, and the days of letting the money gather for a decade are essentially over.

That and $1,000 doesn’t buy a lot of asphalt, or school improvements.

These and other rules are one of the reasons county commissioners are willing to spend up to $35,000 for an expert opinion on what the county can reasonably charge.

In some places, impact fees can account for up to 23 percent of the cost of a new home.

We’re pretty sure that’s not where this is headed, but it’s not bad to keep in mind that charging too much is likely to result in a legal challenge. That could end up costing more money than we would raise from the fee.