Leander City Council narrowly voted April 19 to charge new development projects an extra $200 in impact fees.
The 4-3 vote increased the city's water and wastewater impact fees to a combined $5,495, which is paid during the permitting process. Impact fees are assigned to help municipalities pay for infrastructure necessary in undeveloped portions of the city.
Leander Mayor Pro Tem David Siebold said he proposed the increased rate as a way to help relieve existing Leander residents while still keeping the city competitive with surrounding communities.
“It's not going to do a whole lot on our bottom line, but it sort of sets the way we move forward,” Siebold said during the meeting. “And it could start to add up.”
Staff projections estimate Leander's population will increase approximately 8.5 percent each year for the next 10 years. Much of that growth is anticipated to take place in Leander's undeveloped areas, although Councilwoman Michell Cantwell said she worries increased impact fees could deter ongoing expansion.
“We're at a point where we're just starting to see building permits increase by double digits from last year. I don't want to look at anything that's going to stifle that,” Cantwell said. “We've been at such a low growth rate the past couple of years because of the economy.”
Cantwell, Mayor John Cowman and Councilman Chris Fielder cast the three dissenting votes for the impact fees increase. Both the city staff and Leander Planning and Zoning Commission proposed keeping fees at $5,295, where they have remained since 2007.
Leander City Manager Kent Cagle said the staff suggested that impact fees remain the same so the city can remain competitive with surrounding communities.
“Big picture—obviously impact fees are an attempt to make development pay for itself,” Cagle said. “That's their purpose, and I think we're all for that … but in Leander, we also need significant growth to pay for existing debt.”
The increased fee is still cheaper than impact fees in nearby Round Rock and Georgetown, according to city statistics. The same statistics suggest the fee is higher than neighboring Cedar Park, where impact fees cost a combined $4,250.
Councilwoman Andrea Navarrette said Leander will continue competing with those communities despite the increased impact fees.
“This will take the burden off the back of current homeowners and help pay for infrastructure,” Navarrette said. “We're not going to stifle growth in this desired location. There's enough permits.”