Although approved by voters in 2005, Impact Fees have not been implemented by the town (see below for a description of Impact Fees). Why not you ask? Ignoring the fact that they are not supported by several current Planning Board (yes, the same members who were back on the board in 2005), our Town ordinance ties them to an approved Capital Improvement Program (CIP) in order to finalize the fees schedule. A CIP is not required, so it is not always updated. So, the impact fee could not be created. Why were voters not told of any impediments to creating this?
Fast forward to 2020, in order to finally implement Impact Fees and make it easier to do so, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) recommended changes to Amherst's ordinances. Warrant Article #38 un-binds Impact Fees to a CIP, and removes some other language making it difficult to apply them. Please vote YES on #38 so that the town can start collecting money on future developments.
What are Impact Fees?
Impact fees are fees assigned to any new building construction. The fees are assigned based on regional factors such as housing costs, household income, etc. They are generally charged to developers at the time an occupancy or building permit is issued. For example, Wilton has an impact fee of approximately $8,000 per new house. The builders usually pass these fees onto the new occupants. This means the town gets $8000 per house.
However, Impact Fees can only be spent by the town on items impacted by the new structures. For example if a new stop light outside a new development or Dunkin Donuts is deemed necessary by a traffic study, the impact fees from those structures can be used to help install the traffic light. They cannot be used to go back and fix old problems in school systems or put in new soccer fields. But they CAN be used to build a new school if the impact dictates. If the impact of 6 new developments will be more pupils in an already over-crowded elementary school, the fees can be used to expand an existing school or build a new one. The money must be kept in escrow and used within a certain number of years or returned to the builder.
Bottom Line: In 2005, Impact Fees were voted in by Amherst residents to offset the burden of development. How many people don't know that these fees were never collected? We could have been collecting them for 15 years! Our schools are in dire need of updating, and impact fees could have helped address the problem. That they were never implemented and collected is an outrage. The long-serving members of our current Planning Board are a main reason these fees were never collected.