By Michael Howell
A majority of the County Commissioners are ready to disband the county’s Impact Fee Advisory Committee (IFAC). A meeting was held last week to consider appointments for open positions on the committee. At that meeting Commission Chair J.R. Iman told his fellow commissioners that he had received a call from John Meakin, Chairman of the IFAC, asking that the meeting be postponed since he couldn’t attend on such short notice.
Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher stated that there was no reason to delay their discussion since the advisory board members did not need to be in attendance for the commissioners to discuss the role of that board and the reasons for its establishment.
Commissioner Ron Stoltz said that this discussion was put on the agenda “to see if we need an impact fee board. Given the economy, no one’s going to be passing impact fees.”
Commissioner Suzy Foss agreed, saying, “Why have an Impact Fee Committee when we don’t have impact fees?” She said it seemed like a board with no purpose. She wondered if there was any state statute requiring it.
Commissioner Greg Chilcott stated that there had been two school districts that had conducted studies aimed at establishing impact fees and thus there is some interest in the concept on the part of the public.
Stoltz said that in his view that interest had come and gone and that now there was no interest. He moved to rescind the resolution creating the IFAC.
Chilcott cautioned that under the agenda as it was published it was not really clear that such a resolution was being specifically considered. To avoid any possible legal challenge he proposed putting the matter on a future agenda.
A meeting was placed on the agenda for Wednesday, July 27th, but that meeting was subsequently cancelled.
IFAC Chairman John Meakin said that when he called he was under the impression that the discussion planned would concern appointments to the open seats on the committee. He said he was “disappointed, but not surprised” to learn that the commissioners were considering disbanding the committee.
Meakin said that he planned on being present when the commissioners try to take such action.
“It sounds to me like the commissioners have already made up their mind by discussing it at a meeting without proper public notice,” said Meakin.
The Impact Fee Advisory Committee was established by commissioner resolution on July 30, 2007 following passage of Senate Bill 185 which authorized counties to impose impact fees “to fund all or a portion of the public facility capital improvements affected by the new development.”
According to that resolution, a Preliminary Impact Fee Feasibility Analysis for Ravalli County was published on February 9, 2006. This was followed by a Florence-Carlton School District Study published on August 8, 2006 and a Corvallis School District Study published on March 1, 2007.
The Florence-Carlton impact fee study resulted in an estimate of about $10,000 per unit as a fair impact fee on new development. That effort fizzled due in part to the difficulties involved in getting unanimous approval from both Missoula and Ravalli County commissions as the law requires. The Corvallis study resulted in a recommended impact fee of around $6,800, but the school board reduced that recommendation to $4,000. That proposal was rejected by the Ravalli County Commissioners in 2009.