Council decides no changes to development fees for one year

City discussing increasing development fees Tuesday

EL PASO, Texas - A compromise Tuesday morning between the city of El Paso and home builders will mean no change in the city's impact fee formula to extend infrastructure to new neighborhoods on the city's outskirts.

El Paso City Council voted on keeping the current impact fees in place for builders for 12 months. In return, they ask that new communities are built deeper into the city limits rather than the outskirts.

    El Paso's city council is scheduled to discuss Tuesday increasing the fee developers pay to create new communities on the city's outskirts.

     Currently, those impact fees vary depending on where developers are building.

     But they could jump from $700 to $2,200 if the city puts 100-percent of the burden on the developer.

     Right now -- developers pay 75-percent of the cost to provide infrastructure, water, and services to new developments.

     Existing residents picking up the rest on their utility bills.

     ABC-7 is asking if the city should ask current residents to subsidize new development while schools in existing neighborhoods are at risk of consolidation or even closure.

     ABC-7 spoke with former city representative Susie Byrd, who fought to keep Houston Elementary School in Central El Paso open in 2010.

     The El Paso ISD wanted to close it due to low enrollment.

     "When you leave an institution like that behind in the neighborhood, you essentially create blight around that facility," said Byrd.

     Byrd also said developers and new home buyers should pay 100-percent of new community impact costs.  

     "Our electric rates have gone up to justify new growth. Our gas rates are going up to justify new growth. All of our property taxes are going up, most of it to service new growth."

     Byrd says new growth is not paying for itself as projected. And she cited EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera, who said in a news release last week that "EPISD has not seen a significant increase in its enrollment in the past 25 years yet the district's square footage has grown by more than 3.7 million square feet."

     "What that means also is there's not really any new tax base to pay for it," Byrd said, adding, "We can't afford to pay for the neighborhood on the far east side or the far west side that doesn't bring enough value back to our tax base."

     City Representative Michiel Noe went so far as to say it would be ideal to make it illegal to build outside the city limits -- but adding that this simply is not how the U.S. economy works.

     "How do you tell people they can't move out to the edge of town into a new home?" Noe said.

     While the city rep said he'd like to pass 100-percent of the cost to developers, he fears the city would take the hit.     

     "The developer and home builder (would go) outside the city limits. And at that point, these people are going to be driving into the city, using your parks, driving on your streets, everything else, but you're not going to be taxing them."

     Noe ultimately doesn't think the city will vote to increase the impact fee.

     ABC-7 will have a crew at City Hall for Tuesday's meeting; stay with ABC-7 and for any developments.

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