CHESTER – The planning board has been busy this year updating and adopting new impact fee schedules to help offset the tax burden of new development in town, and last week signed off on a new library fee and updated police, fire and recreation fees.
Impact fees are assessed on new development as a way to help the town pay for the services those homes need. Typically property taxes that new homes will end up paying don’t cover the cost of the services they require, from roads to emergency services, and impact fees are a way to keep property taxes for the rest of the community down.
To do this work the planning board has been working with the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SHNPC), which makes sure, with legal counsel help, that the fees are justified.
There are six housing types in Chester, from single family homes to duplexes and condos, and each has a different calculated fee.
Police and fire impact fees went up slightly with this update, and the recreation fee went down slightly.
The board is also looking at an update to the highway fees, but concerns about a traffic model being used had them table that update until they could reexamine at it.
According to planning coordinator Andrew Hadik, the traffic fees were coming out very low in comparison to existing fees and to those of surrounding towns, and because road infrastructure costs are such a huge portion of the costs of running Chester, the board was not comfortable with approving the update as it came to them.
The next step in that process is to have SNHPC consult with the traffic engineer to reassess the traffic flow model.
That impact fee expires at the end of December and plans are to have a new one in place before then.
In 2011 the town adopted traffic and recreation impact fees, and while there is a mandatory six-year timeframe for updating them, the board is now looking at updating them every year, to make sure that the town is on top of them and is not losing out on potential revenue.
Chester’s impact fees are tied into its zoning ordinance, Article 14, and as Hadik explained, it’s all about fair share – making sure the new development coming into town helps with the town’s aging infrastructure.
The title of that article is indeed “Fair Share Contribution” and its purpose is, “to ensure that new development subject to either subdivision approval or site plan review bear its fair share of any needs occasioned by that development for the construction or improvement of those capital facilities owned or operated by the Town of Chester…”
Earlier this year the board adopted an impact fee for the schools as well.
Also being considered is an impact fee for government buildings, but that work has not officially started.
To see the impact schedules, visit the planning board’s page at www.chesternh.org. There are draft copies available.