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Archive for Saturday, December 11, 1999

BUILDERS SEEK FEE RELIEF

December 11, 1999

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Baldwin sewer and water fees have drawn the ire of developers.

Area developers and builders, upset over Baldwin's new sewer and water hook-up fees, are asking the Baldwin City Council to reconsider last month's its decision.

They will make their case at a council work session scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Baldwin Library.

This will be the second work session on the topic, which also has come up in two council meetings, including Nov. 11 when the council approved the fees.

The council voted 3-1 to increase the per-house water connection fee from $350 to $1,500 and to add a $1,500 sewer connection fee.

City Administrator Larry Paine said the fees will compensate the city for the cost associated with upgrading water and sewer systems.

But home builders and developers charge that the fees are excessive and that they should have been consulted before the vote.

"There was no notice to the Lawrence Home Builders Assn., no notice to (developer) Jerry Donnelly," said Bobbie Flory, executive director of the builders association.

Paine said if he had it to do over again, he would have scheduled the discussion for one week and a vote for the next. That way, residents and affected parties would have been given a chance to learn of the proposal and provide input.

But he said the fees are appropriate.

For too long, Paine said, existing property owners have been subsidizing the cost of Baldwin's growth.

That subsidy was on the verge of ballooning, Paine said. The city has about 1,000 existing homes, and about 225 home lots have been platted and could be built in the next five years.

The construction will force an upgrade of the already taxed water and sewer systems, Paine said.

"It's not fair to charge the newcomers for the inadequacies of the existing system," Flory said.

Flory said it is fair to charge builders for the cost of parts and labor to hook up new water meters and lines, estimated between $750 and $900 per house.

But the developers pay all of the sewer installation costs.

The city is studying other fees to compensate the city for needed system improvements.

The context of that study is the appropriate time to talk about fees, Flory said. And residents, business people and builders should be invited to give input, she added.

Flory said the increased fees will stifle growth.

"The housing that will stop immediately in Baldwin is affordable housing," Flory said.

Paine said the fees could have an impact on growth, but the risk is worth taking in an effort to spread the expenses fairly.

"There's an equity I'm trying to achieve here," Paine said.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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