North 40 impact fee draws anger

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Steve Marolt is going to be paying 15 to 20 percent more in fees to the government than his neighbors just to move into his home in the North 40 subdivision.

“Another $4,200 at the end of a project like this is backbreaking,” he said.

Marolt is one of 72 lot owners in the Aspen area’s newest neighborhood across the highway from the airport.

In addition to paying $140,000 for his lot and about $170 per square foot for construction, Marolt, like all of his neighbors, paid close to $20,000 to tap into the city’s water system, several thousand dollars for a building permit, several hundred dollars for the school impact mitigation fee and a small mapping fee.

But Marolt and about two dozen other lot owners at North 40 will also be paying a road impact fee the rest of their neighbors were exempted from. For Marolt’s 3,300-square-foot home, the road impact fee comes to $4,248.

“How fair is that? Half the people have to pay the fee, and half the people don’t,” Marolt said.

The road impact fee was adopted in June 2000 as one of several changes to the county land-use code that came out of the six-month development moratorium. The fee, which applies to new residential development, is an attempt to cover some of the costs associated with repairing road damage made by heavy equipment during construction. It is also meant to cover increased road maintenance requirements generated by the residents of the new homes.

Several wealthy developers and their representatives argued vigorously during the moratorium that any new fees should apply to both free-market and affordable housing. They contend affordable housing has the same affect on the county and its infrastructure as free-market housing, and should thus be held to the same standard.

The county commissioners agreed and adopted a road impact fee that applies to affordable housing and free-market housing.

It initially didn’t apply to homebuilders at the North 40 or any other development that was in the three-year vesting period that follows the initial approval of a development, according to Lance Clarke, deputy director of the county’s community development department. But once a vesting period expires, as it did at the North 40 in the spring of 2001, the fee became applicable. Anyone who pulled their building permit after the expiration date was subject to the new fee.

Developer John McBride, who spent several years working with the county to create North 40, agrees that the discrepancy between lot owners in the same development appears unfair.

“It seems odd to me that some people have to pay that impact fee and others don’t,” he said.

McBride is currently developing a small cluster of townhomes at North 40, and he, too, had to pay the impact fees. He did, however, ask for an independent assessment of his development’s impacts on the roads and received a 25 percent reduction in his impact fee. The $4,248 that Marolt is being assessed is also 25 percent less than the standard fee of $5,664.

County Commissioner Dorothea Farris, who voted in favor of applying road impact fees across the board, said it would be unfair to single out one class of developer by granting an exemption.

“It’s like saying these people are lesser citizens because they live in affordable housing, so they should pay less than the wealthier people,” she said.

Farris also noted that one of the big problems with the pre-2000 land-use code was all of the exceptions it contained. “We kept adding exemptions over the years to the point where it didn’t make sense to have a code,” she said.

But her colleague, Patti Clapper, thinks an exception should be considered for residents of the North 40.

“I understand the concerns of the county with the road impact fees, but I’m more aligned with the concerns of the homeowners who have been hit with it,” Clapper said.

She is hoping to add the subject of road impact fees at North 40 to the agenda of an upcoming commissioner work session.

If she is successful, it’s likely Marolt will be there to make his case. “North 40 is not adding to traffic,” he said. “Most of the people there were commuting from downvalley, so moving into the neighborhood is a form of traffic reduction.”

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is]


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