New impact fees proposed by county

RBC — What does it cost the county to meet the demand for better roads to access the new oil and gas wells being drilled or proposed? What is the cost, in terms of county infrastructure, for each new house or subdivision? What does the anticipated growth in population in Rio Blanco County add to the needs for space in the courthouse or the jail?
These are the kinds of questions that were asked in a study done last year by the Rural Planning Institute (RPI) at the direction of the board of county commissioners. The study looks at the anticipated growth impacts across the county associated with the oil and gas industry, new residential housing and new commercial buildings.
These impacts occur in many forms. The levels of service to which taxpayers are accustomed decline. It takes longer to conduct business at local government offices as current staff levels cannot meet the demand or the need for new staff leads to crowding in existing offices. Roads which were adequate in the past now become congested and the frequency of accidents increases. Law enforcement is stretched by an increased number of calls which are often in remote areas and the need for jail and administrative space increases.
The RPI study looks 15 years into the future, analyzing these and other impacts of growth and then puts numbers to the costs. This was not just an academic or planning exercise. The study was required by Colorado statute should the county want to establish a countywide impact fee. The county currently has an emergency impact fee in place, with all new oil and gas wells being assessed. The new fees, supported by the study, would replace the current fees and, depending on the type of activity, would reflect the cost to the county for new capital needs.
While most of the new fees and 95 percent of the costs are related to oil, gas and related activities, there would also be an assessment on new housing and on new commercial buildings. The proposed fees vary depending on the type and use of the building. Commercial buildings that have greater traffic demands are charged proportionally higher fees. Residences would be charged equally with a provision for affordable housing as allowed by the Colorado statute.
The county has already met several times with representatives of local industry to discuss the proposed fee structure and work out the details. The Rio Blanco County Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners has had several public meetings but feel additional public information and discussions would be helpful.
Want to know more? There will be a public meeting Wednesday, March 12 with members of the planning commission, the county commissioners and county staff to discuss the study and proposed fees with emphasis on the residential and commercial aspects. The meeting will be held at the Rio Blanco Administration Building, 317 East Market St. in Meeker at 7 p.m.
The complete RPI study, all four sections, is available at the Planning/Development section of the Rio Blanco County Web site at www.co.rio-blanco.co.us.