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Letter: Impact fees are a key to community success

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I enjoyed reading the two letters about impact fees (Oct. 2, Weiland and Hoffrage). Impact fees have been part of California development since the 1970s (nearly half a century). As stated by Judge Weiland, they help pay for services needed by those newcomers. If not wisely set-up and administered, people who have lived here for decades (or generations) pay for sidewalks, roads, new water and sewer lines, underground electric lines and even schools that might be miles from their home.

The idea that a town or city is “development friendly” or “unfriendly” is a concept bandied about mostly by builders and real estate agents. They often explain that nobody wants to buy an expensive house and fees make for less building. This is, of course, total nonsense. Nobody buys a house for cash like a pair of shoes. Credit is the key, not fees: how banks might be lending.

Another key to building is called development and design standards. This refers to materials and methods. For instance, many communities conserve water by requiring drought tolerant landscaping on both public (road right-of-way, parks, public buildings, etc.) and private properties. Others save electricity by requiring solar power. Most now require sidewalks, underground utilities and prohibit the use of dangerous shake roofs.

Madera has a long history of being “development friendly.” The results include whole sections of the city without sidewalks, inadequate storm drainage (which is why when it rains, it floods) and overhead wires prone to failure during winter storms. The school district consistently underestimates the costs of construction. Who pays? We do with unnecessary city and school bonds (higher taxes).

It would be wise to reevaluate city and school district impact fees and development standards. It would be even wiser to hire a consultant from outside of the Central Valley. Personally, I’m tired of reading the results of local phone surveys written by locals. This may be quick and easy but it is not helpful. Fresh ideas do not come from sealed jars. A bigger picture would be especially useful for our elected officials.

— Lawrence F. Lihosit,

Author of Neighbors: Oral History from Madera, California

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