Trustees split over need for fire station funding, desire to keep community affordable for new homes
A split Fredonia Village Board voted down a proposal last week that would have boosted the village impact fee for fire protection to $1,102 for each new home built.
A public hearing held prior to the board meeting failed to draw a single comment on the issue, but that didn’t mean the substantial fee hike would be a done deal.
A fire department needs study recently prepared by Strand Associates suggests that upgrading the fire station could cost as much as $2.6 million.
For that amount, a new building would provide 7,300 square feet of vehicle storage space and 5,900 square feet of office and support space.
A more modest proposal called for a 7,500-square-foot addition to the existing building on South Milwaukee Street, at a projected cost of $1.8 million.
The options were deemed as adequate to meet department needs for at least the next 20 years.
As part of the study, a hike in the fire protection impact fee was recommended to pass some of the cost on to new development in the village.
The current impact fee for fire facilities is about $200.
The thought of raising that fee by $900 was more than Trustee Scott Ehaney could stomach.
“I am not comfortable with this at all,” Ehaney said.
“New housing starts are already down to four or five a year and I am concerned that increasing this fee by $900 is going to stifle any chance for growth. This might be enough to convince someone who is considering building a home here to look some place else.”
Ehaney said chasing away new growth would wipe away any chance of the village collecting property taxes on the lost home for years to come.
“For every new home we lose, we lose those taxes every year,” he said.
Several trustees also questioned the figures used in the study, contending the projection of 20 new homes being built in the village every year was unrealistic. The study says the village could grow by as many as 450 homes over the next 20 years.
“Even if you assume those numbers are accurate and we are able to bring in $500,000 in additional fees, we are still going to have to find a way to come up with $1 million (for the fire station),” Ehaney said.
Trustee Fritz Buchholtz said raising the impact fee, which would also affect new businesses building in the village, would be a deterrent to growth.
“We have been talking about being pro-business, but raising this fee is going to be counterproductive,” Buchholtz said.
Village President Chuck Lapicola said increasing the impact fee would be a way to take some of the burden of a new fire station off the shoulders of existing taxpayers.
Lapicola said the proposed impact fee would be equal to about .5% of the cost for the owner of a new $200,000 home.
Trustee Don Dohrwardt said even with the increase, the village’s impact fees would be lower than in most surrounding communities.
“It is still a better deal to build in Fredonia. It is going to be cheaper here,” Dohrwardt said.
Despite that appeal, the board voted 4-3 to reject the fee hike. Voting against the increase were Ehaney, Buchholtz, Jill Bertram and Lisa Dohrwardt.