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Town Council swats down Development Impact Fees, but only for one year

August 6, 2011

The contractors won the pennant! The contractors won the pennant!

All right, so it wasn’t exactly that dramatic at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, but to Mammoth builders it must have seemed like Bobby Thomson had just stepped to the plate and swatted a drive into the lower deck of the left field stands.

When they walked out of the Council Chambers, they had a victory, although not a total, hands-down victory.

First of all, there was no actual action.

Instead, the council sent back to the town staff a directive to draft a resolution outlining the steps to be taken. The council would then vote on the package at a special meeting on Aug. 10.

Even so, it was a victory for the contractors, who showed up en masse to a meeting that stretched all the way to its limit —10:30 p.m.

The town’s Development Impact Fees (DIF) would be gone for a year, but just for smaller projects.
Building fees and permit fees would remain in place to protect Mammoth’s general fund.

But the big item was the DIF issue, which contractors and councilman Matthew Lehman said is an impediment to building, and therefore a drag on the town’s economy.

The original idea by Lehman was to place a 36-month moratorium on DIF, in addition to a reduction in permit fees.

He didn’t get it. What he got instead was a proposal for a 12-month plan for a moratorium on DIF.
But the question for councilman Rick Wood – a longtime skeptic of the DIF to begin with, was whether this was just a shadow move.

“In my judgment,” he said, “the real question is not economic stiumulus, the real question is about economic development.

“We’re in the business of tourism. Construction is a by-product of what we do. It’s not our central core, but it does employ a lot of folks who have formed the bedrock of this community.

“Where you have tourism, you have construction and development.”

His question was whether the waiver of DIF was somewhat of a pipedream, along the lines of “If we build it, they will come.”

To Wood, this was somewhat of a backward argument.

“We, as a government, function because nearly 70 percent of our budget exists because of the transient occupancy tax.

“For me, it’s about heads in beds.”

“The argument I would put forth is how the elimination of DIF on small projects, commercial and re-model kinds of things, how is that related to heads in beds? How does that relate to TOT? How does that get more money in our pockets to make up for the loss of the general fund?

“I see and can argue both sides of the issue. I would love to see more permits pulled, but I doubt that those fees are going to buck the economic headwinds that are standing in the way of people’s decisions to actually build in this or any other community.”

Wood’s argument seemed to take hold, and may have induced the council to take a more measured approach to the DIF issue.

Even so, he voted to send the proposal back to the town staff to draft its resolution.

As for the contractors?

A victory, no doubt about it. It wasn’t the total victory that they may have wanted, but it was a victory nevertheless.

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