The law director recommends a study before 'impact fees' are imposed.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
COLUMBIANA -- City council wants to force real estate developers to pay surcharges to fund sewer and water-system improvements.
Council members said at their meeting Tuesday that it's more equitable to charge so-called impact fees than to raise tap-in fees to fund the improvements, but they took no action on imposing the fees.
Councilman Devin Witt said an impact fee would be in addition to the sewer and water tap-in fees already required.
He said that by charging impact fees, council can place more of the financial burden for water and sewer improvements on customers who will have the most impact on the water and sewer systems.
Council members have said developers have the most impact.
Council members also said they did not want new water and sewer customers, such as those on Fairfield Avenue, Bittersweet Drive and Route 14, to pay higher tap-in fees, because they will already be paying assessments for those services.
City Law Director Daniel Blasdell has said that if council chose to increase tap-in fees, the increase would have to include all customers. He said any attempt to exclude some people from paying higher tap-in fees would likely be challenged in court.
Blasdell noted Tuesday that establishing impact fees requires extensive study, and he recommended that council hire an engineering firm experienced in preparing impact-fee reports.
Challenge in court
Any customer who has an impact fee imposed can challenge it in court and the city would have to prove that the fee is justified.
The better the impact-fee report, the better chance the city would have to prove the need, he said.
Chamberlin said he has already contacted an engineering firm that has written impact-fee studies.