Foley staff drafting impact fee ordinance for council consideration

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 6/1/21

FOLEY - The Foley City Council has asked city staff to move forward with drafting an impact fee ordinance to bring before the council for consideration. If approved, an impact fee would be …

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Foley staff drafting impact fee ordinance for council consideration

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FOLEY - The Foley City Council has asked city staff to move forward with drafting an impact fee ordinance to bring before the council for consideration. If approved, an impact fee would be implemented on new developments within Foley. These fees would be utilized in creating new infrastructure for the city, including roads, police, fire, and parks and recreation.

During a presentation to the council by Carson Bise, president of TischlerBise, an impact fee study was shown. Within the study, Bise highlighted the current state of Foley and the projected growth within the next ten years.

“We know where we are in 2021, we have an estimated population of about 26,000 people, about 11,000 housing units, about 13,000 jobs, and about 5.5 million square feet of nonresidential space,” Bise said. “So we look forward and project based on trends, so we’re projecting an additional increase of nearly 11,000 new persons over the next ten years, almost 6,200 new housing units, about 5,200 new jobs, and about 2.2 million additional square feet of nonresidential development activity.”

Bise presented two separate impact fee methodologies to the council, an aggressive option and a conservative option. The aggressive option, the incremental expansion, or consumption-based methodology, showed impact fees based on the current level of service and the cost necessary to maintain that level of service based on the projected growth estimates. The conservative method, the plan-based approach, looked at Foley’s adopted masterplan and suggestions from city department heads to calculate impact fees. The aggressive option saw more infrastructure in multiple departments built as opposed to the conservative option.

“The plan-based option is based upon information Carson and his team got from us as directors saying this is what we’re anticipating we’re going to need to do over the next ten years, whereas the incremental is based upon their projected growth of our city,” said City Administrator Mike Thompson. “As the directors and I put together this ten year capital plan, since it’s lower and a more conservative approach than the incremental based, that would imply to me that with what we’re planning our service levels will actually degrade because we’re not maintaining service levels in the plan, whereas the incremental plan is intended to maintain the service levels.”

State of Alabama law limits impact fees at 1 percent. Most other large municipalities within the county have already implemented impact fees. Only Foley and Baldwin County haven’t implemented the fees, and both are currently reviewing the possibility.

“I know the council has always wanted to maintain our quality of life,” said Mayor Ralph Hellmich. “This would just be another tool in our ability to do so. We created industry for sports tourism, tried to create some new jobs and revenue streams, and we have low property taxes. This is important, I think, as a tool to help mitigate this road situation. Growth is not necessarily a bad thing if we can maintain our quality of life.”

Some members of the council voiced concerns over implementing the impact fee. Councilmember Dick Dayton was concerned if businesses would reconsider relocating to Foley if an impact fee was in place on top of other fees associated with a new business. Council President Wayne Trawick was concerned that every new development will be subject to the impact fee when 90 percent of Foley’s sales tax comes from outside citizens, he says. He added that residential developments were some of the ones that put the largest strain on local infrastructure as opposed to industrial and commercial.

“If you’re trying to bring a commercial or industrial business to an area, you want to know that there’s a fire truck going to show up if your plant catches fire, you want to know if an alarm goes off the police are there, you want to know that your truckers can get there on good paved roads,” Thompson said in reply to Trawick’s concerns. “So I mean keep in mind that in terms of the effect of drawing good paying jobs and good industries to our community, I think the developers knowing that we’re prepared to maintain our standard of living is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

While no vote was needed, the council has authorized city staff to begin drafting an impact fee ordinance. Once complete, the first draft will be presented to the council for consideration. The ordinance will address alternative fee calculations, property tear downs, expansions, and more.

“Personally this is something I feel like we’ve needed some years ago, but we’ve been able to make do so far. But with the growth we see the constant strain on our budget, whether it’s intersection projects or so forth,” said councilmember Charlie Ebert. “If we weren’t getting grants, those improvements would be coming out of our general fund.”

For more information, check out https://cityoffoley.org.

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