On March 14th the County Board voted to approve a 10% reduction in Road Impact Fees. I was 1 of 5 members who opposed this ordinance. Its not that I oppose the reduction which is a step in the right direction, rather I oppose the entire ordinance in its current form.
By state statute only 2 counties in Illinois can impose road impact fees: Kane & DuPage Counties. Lucky us, right? The fee is supposed to be charged to developments in order to offset costs for road improvements which are "specifically and uniquely attributable" to the development itself. So what does that mean? When Sherman Hospital relocated its campus to the 19th District they caused a new traffic pattern on Randall Road necessitating an intersection improvement with lights and turning lanes. Through this ordinance the County was able to recuperate the costs for the improvements from Sherman because they caused the need for the improvements. They were specifically and uniquely attributable to the hospital. Common sense, right?
Well, the above description is how the Kane County road impact fee ordinance was intended to work, but that is not the current form. Kane County took a more liberal interpretation and established three zones or CRIPs (Comprehensive Road Improvement Plan). Road impact fees collected from new development are then used for projects throughout the corresponding CRIP. This means that a new gas station on Elgin's east side could end up paying for a turn lane in Burlington Township since they both belong to the same CRIP. Rather than having Gilberts' new Conservancy Development pay for improvements along Tyrell Road, their impact fees could go to a road improvement project in say Carpentersville. The Casey's Gas Station on Route 72 in Hampshire would have paid around $60,000 in impact fees, even though it wasn't adding any real traffic or congestion. Thank goodness the Village of Hampshire worked out a tax incentive deal to help Casey's come into town or we all would have been robbed of their outstanding pizza. So not only are we raising costs for new development, we are also not even guaranteed to have that money go back to the road improvement projects necessitated by that development.
This interpretation of the ordinance, in my opinion, ignores the foundation and original intent of the statute and is wrong. When we use impact fees for revenue generators instead of their intended purpose we are putting our county at a disadvantage, and scaring away potential employers from investing in our communities. While Kane and DuPage Counties are the only counties who can levy this type of impact fee, villages, school districts and other levels of government all have this type of taxing authority as well. These fees compound and grow costs to prohibitive levels, especially for homeowners. Sugar Grove was notorious for their high impact fees. Developers were paying roughly $50,000 in fees before shovel touched dirt for single family homes. That $50,000 was being passed onto the buyer, who was adding that cost to their mortgage and now paying interest on it over the next 30 years. Kane County was about $5,000 of the $50,000, and while this was small in the overall percentage it still added to the burden of these residents. Also, its the only portion that my vote actually impacts.
But wait, it gets worse. Where this really comes into play is right here in the 19th District. The industrial parks located along Tyrell Road and Big Timber are forced to market themselves as warehouse space which will create less than 10 jobs per site, rather than manufacturing sites which could produce 50 or more jobs per site due to the costs involved with the road impact fee. Not only is that a loss of jobs, but its also a loss in tax revenue.
So what is the next step? The CRIPs are constantly updated and the ordinance itself is revised every 5 years. I have already reached out to my colleagues about reconsidering how this ordinance is used in the future. The example of Sherman Hospital should be the gold standard, rather than the expansive CRIPs.