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Ease the blow from fees

The city is well within its rights to adjust some systems development fees that haven’t been changed in 20 years, and the revenue will be welcome as costs of building and maintaining streets and roads continue to climb. But after signing off on what amounts to an enormous increase in the fees for new construction, the City Council should consider easing the blow for some projects.

The rationale for systems development charges is that developers of new residential and commercial projects should help offset the cost of public services needed to accommodate the growth that comes with them, from water and sewer to streets and roads. New housing means more people driving more cars, putting pressure on transportation systems.

State law allows cities to charge three transportation development fees: a reimbursement fee for city-funded work already completed, a fee for road projects on a list for adoption that have capacity for growth built in, and a compliance fee for time spent drawing up the methodology. Ashland has never assessed the reimbursement fee.

Adding the reimbursement fee will boost the fees for a single-family home from $2,000 to $3,000 as of Jan. 1, using the staff-recommended phase-in. Smaller increases would follow in the second and third years.

There’s nothing wrong with making this change. But with affordable housing on everyone’s mind, raising fees equally for every project seems short-sighted. Projects designed to keep sale or rental costs down should be exempted from at least a portion of the fee increase.

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