In an earlier post, titled, “SDCs lessoning the infrastructure investment burden on taxpayers” I discussed that SDCs (System Development Charges) were created to help ease the cost burden of a city’s infrastructure development from existing citizens.
This post deals with insights as to mayor Steve Spinnett’s use, or non-use of SDCs.
Personally speaking I embrace the concept of SDCs for several reasons:
- Current citizens don’t have to pay infrastructure costs to be used by future citizens. Saying existing citizens would have to pay for all of the city’s future infrastructure costs was a scare tactic, in my opinion, used by the group Ask Damascus who was working to get citizens to vote “no” on last May’s referendum 3-375. Their claim is detailed in my post titled, “The Comp Plan means $500,000 owed by each homeowner. Really?”.
- SDCs help address the concept of “concurrency” in which development helps pay for the increased demand such development will bring on a city’s current infrastructure. I also addressed the concept of “concurrency” in my post titled, “SDCs lessoning the infrastructure investment burden on taxpayers” In his letter to residents prior to May’s referendum 3-375 vote, the mayor sent a letter to each home in Damascus trying to persuade them to vote “no” on the referendum. One of the arguments in his letter dealt with SDCs.
“Estimates for infrastructure costs along (to build roads, sewer, etc.), range in the multi-billions of dollars. These estimates do not even include private development costs. How is this going to be paid? Who is going to pay for this? The attitude in and around city government is that YOU are going to pay for this. You may respond by saying, How could they? We passed an initiative that says “no new taxes, charges or fees without the vote of the people.” Yes, we did. But government knows how to wear you down with initiatives for additional tax revenue, knowing that there won’t always be citizen groups to oppose the tax increases.
I have also heard city council members mention System Development Charges, or SDCs, to help pay for the infrastructure – something you have already voted against. Bond measures and tax increment financing (or borrowing against an anticipated increase in tax revenue) have also been mentioned.
For these reasons I strongly recommend a NO vote on Measure 3-375.”
First of all I have never heard where the City expects citizens to pay for infrastructure. Instead, over the years, it has been the common understanding that when development does occur SDCs will be one such mechanism used to defray the costs of development.
During the March 16, 2011 Town Hall meeting, while questions surfaced on SDCs and their meaning, the Councilors discussed what SDCs were, when they could be used and how the SDCs would be used to offset taxpayer expense. The mayor made two statements about SDCs I found rather insightful.
- “If we don’t accept SDCs there won’t be any development.”
- “It [not having SDCs] would slow down development, yes.”
During the overall conversation the mayor did not explain how SDCs could be used to offset development costs to the citizens.
As I understand it being a city means having a comprehensive plan in place on how the city is to handle the various statewide goals as mandated by state law. One of the statewide goals deals with how the city will plan for development. Part of that means having codes and policies in place for which infrastructure can be extended to support development. A completed comprehensive plan means having the costs associated with various SDCs determined. If we (as in the citizens of Damascus) do not vote to accept SDCs the comprehensive plan can not be completed and as stated by the mayor, “If we don’t accept SDCs there won’t be any development.”
From my perspective, if we simply don’t vote approval for SDCs development will not occur, it is akin to burying one’s head in the sand in order to avoid the larger picture.