Make Growth Pay for Itself
College Station taxpayers provide massive subsidies to developers by paying the costs of the infrastructure to accommodate new homes. The current bill that taxpayers will be asked to pay is $150 million for new and expanded roads, fire station, police building, city hall, parks, library, community center, et al. Developers reap the profits, while taxpayers pay the bills. I estimate that each residence built in the past 5 years has resulted in a $16,000 cost subsidy in new infrastructure requirements being imposed on existing College Station residents. That is not fair.
In addition, the city estimates that to “break-even” on the cost of delivering city services, a home must be valued at approximately $180,000. When taxpayers' costs associated with the school district and the county are included, this “break-even” figure is likely to exceed $250,000. The average home value in our market is $149,600. This means that most new residential homes result in higher taxes for existing residents because the cost of servicing them in most cases exceeds the property taxes and sales tax revenues they generate.
The city is in a strong position to require future growth to be on terms laid down by current residents, because demand for the College Station “product” far exceeds the supply. We are consistently informed by the city's Development Services Department that College Station will continue to grow rapidly and that such growth is “inevitable.” If it is (and I am not convinced it is inevitable), then clearly we must dictate the nature of the growth, and insist that developers and new homeowners pay its costs. If as a result, some developers elect not to build in College Station , so be it!
Progress Report (June 2007 – Present)
1) Initiated an increase in the park land dedication payments paid by developers from $540 to $900 per residence. My full proposal of $1,900 per residence, which would cover the cost of providing new parks for new development, was rejected by council.
2) Initiated the extension of park land dedication fees so that for the first time they applied to new residential developments in the city's Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) area.
3) Supported annexation of 3,200 acres so land on periphery of the city could be zoned for agriculture use and released for development in accordance with the city's Comprehensive Plan. A zoning change from agricultural use would not be granted unless the infrastructure was in place to accommodate it. The council voted to annex 1,600 acres.
4) Supported large lot (20 acre) zoning in the ETJ to prevent residential development occurring on the periphery of the city until the infrastructure was in place to accommodate it. The council rejected this proposal.
5) Initiated a proposal for more rigorous requirements for Traffic Impact Assessments (described in the following Alleviating Traffic Congestion position paper).
6) Initiated the process for developing an impact fee schedule so new homes will pay the full cost of water and wastewater services. This will ensure that the capital costs incurred to deliver these services to new homes will be borne by those residences. Authorized a water facilities' master plan by consultants that will provide the cost data needed to accomplish these impact fees.
Proposed Future Agenda (2008 – 2011)
1) Identify all the ways residential growth currently is subsidized, and develop policies that will remove this subsidy. For example, i mpact fees for roads needed to serve new development should be implemented to cover the full costs associated with such roads. Property taxes have risen inexorably and will continue to do so as long as existing residents are expected to subsidize the costs associated with new residential development.
2) Focus on infill development. City data show that 35%-40% of the city's total geographical area has not been developed and is suitable for development. There is no need for the city to keep expanding south beyond its existing boundaries. This sprawl substantially increases our infrastructure costs.
3) Require developers to adhere to the community's preferred standards and offer what the community desires. In recent years more non-local developers have been active in College Station . They have no long-term commitment to the community beyond the life of their development. If, as a result, they elect to go elsewhere, so be it!
4) Strengthen current ordinances to ensure that subdivisions in the city's Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) meet the higher standard of the city when they are annexed. State law gives the city the authority to regulate subdivisions in the ETJ which extends 3.5 miles out from the city limits.