What does development cost? — Karen Hollweg

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO
POSTED:   01/16/2015 07:00:57 PM MST

I am dismayed by the ever-increasing rush-hour traffic and by the pace and scale of development in Boulder, just as are many who’ve written recent letters to the editor. For me, another major concern is what all this is costing you and me.

Since the 1970s, I’ve heard that “development pays its own way” here in Boulder. But development creates extra demand for schools, recreation centers, parks and open space, fire stations and libraries. So why are we continually being asked to pay higher/more taxes to cover these additional costs?

Development pays nothing extra to fund the schools necessitated by their additional pupils. Local property taxes paid by all of us are what pay for the new schools, which is why we get hit with multi-hundred-million-dollar tax increases on the ballot every so often.

For our local transportation infrastructure, I’ve been told that the city of Boulder gets around $500,000 per year on average from new development, as development excise taxes. However, to actually prevent congestion from increasing, the real cost is many multiples higher.

Regarding affordable housing, does development pay its way? Or is this left to you and me? The recently-approved office complex for Google will pay no fees for affordable housing whatsoever. Our planning director David Driskell has suggested that such development could be assessed “linkage fees” to pay for affordable housing for the lower income workers. But the linkage fee that the city does assess, only on the portion of new office buildings built above the by-right height of 38 feet and only in the downtown area, is minuscule compared to the actual cost of providing this housing. And many claim that the current “in lieu of” fees, assessed to build affordable housing when it is not provided as part of a residential development, fall short of the actual costs.

It seems to me that our city needs to do a thorough, independent economic analysis to establish the true cost of development on all aspects of city facilities and services. That would enable us to create a system of fees that is based on the real numbers and enable development to really pay its own way.

Karen Hollweg lives in Boulder.

… maintaining Boulder's quality of life