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Durango fire chief asks city, county for new impact fees

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017 11:09 PM
Hal Doughty, fire chief for the Durango Fire Protection District, says the district needs to collect impact fees to pay for fire and emergency medical services in new areas. The Durango City Council and the La Plata County Commissioners are weighing the fees. Fees do not have to be approved by a public vote.

Impact fees can help pay for new fire stations and vehicles, but they would likely increase housing costs in an already high-cost real estate market

“It is a very tough discussion to have in the county because people are really very sensitive to anything that raises cost to homes,” La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake said Tuesday at a joint city and county meeting with Durango Fire Protection District.

DFPD Chief Hal Doughty told the Durango City Council and the La Plata Commission that fees assessed on new residential and commercial construction would help pay for the fire and emergency medical services those areas will require.

The fees would apply to construction within the fire district, which covers 325 square miles, including Durango and areas along U.S. Highway 550. Developers would pay $988 per home and $1.44 per square foot for commercial buildings, Doughty said. Over the next 30 years, the district expects to need $54 million for fire stations, a training facility and new vehicles, among other needs.

If the city and county do not approve impact fees, the entire community would likely have to pay for fire department services in new areas, Doughty said.

“Folks that already live here – they have already bought and paid for the services we already have,” he said.

San Juan County Commissioners approved the fees two weeks ago for construction mainly in Cascade Village, which is within DFPD’s service area. The district would not charge the impact fees in San Juan County unless the city and county also approve them.

“We will have everybody on board or else we won’t do this,” Doughty said.

There are several areas in the county that already have fire impact fees, including Edgemont, Three Springs, Twin Buttes and areas around Purgatory.

It is possible these areas could have lower impact fees if the new fees are adopted, Doughty said. For all other areas of the fire district, the fees would be an additional cost for developers.

Builder and developer Gene Fisher told officials Tuesday that the residential fee could add as much as $4,000 to the cost of a house because generally, builders price a house by multiplying the price of the land and the associated fees by four.

He asked city and county officials to consider how all fees on new construction collectively increase the cost of housing.

“I would say that the housing issue in Durango and La Plata County is the No. 1 social issue,” Fisher said.

As the cost of new housing rises, it also boosts the value and price of existing homes, he said.

Mayor Dick White said both boards will hold formal public hearings about fees before voting on the issue, but he said he supports them.

“For local government, public safety is job one,” he said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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