by Dr. Michelle Bellini
At a recent worksession, the Greeley City Council examined proposed changes regarding the way development proceeds in the city. This issue is under examination because the city has over-built public facilities for underdeveloped areas, since the current process bases infrastructure development on five-year plans.
Becky Safarik and committee presented “Adequate Public Facilities Area,” proposing to change the way the city approaches infrastructure development. Currently, the city bases infrastructure planning (roads, sidewalks, lights, sewer facilities, parks, etc.) on expected growth, that is, growth not realized, due to economic conditions. “At current rates of growth the market could take more than a decade to absorb current inventories of platted lots” Safarik said. New homes have not been built at the rates which were projected and industrial growth expectations were far too optimistic.
To continue to provide adequate public facilities for areas in Greeley which are currently developing, the recommendation was that the city eliminate the current growth management tool (the Mid-Range Expected Service Area or MRESA). Instead, under the proposal, development would proceed at the developers’ pace. Infrastructure building, will, according to this plan, be based upon funds which have already been allocated. Developers will also build facilities. Ms. Safarik also said, “The elimination of MRESA would result in new development occurring anywhere within city limits provided that (a) Public services are already adequate at the time of application; (b) Public services are budgeted for upgrades that would achieve adequacy within the adopted city budget for the current two-year CIP projects; or (c) The developer has the means to make service upgrades and provide acceptable service levels.”
In essence, the city would base infrastructure development on developers’ time-tables. The new system would be based on a two-year cycle, and development of facilities would be paid for by funds which would have already been allocated. The proposed changes would include standards governing how development is connected to city services. In addition, fees would be collected sooner and in larger increments, so that the city would not have to play “catch-up” to provide city services. Finally, the proposed changes would codify commonly employed, but largely informal, practices.
This proposal supports the idea that Greeley is “open for business.” It is also a market-based system, driven not by a five-year plan but by actual development needs.
Councilman Mike Finn asked where the impact fees paid by developers would go. Finn was reassured by staff that the impact fees would be restricted funds, allocated to pay for the services that would be built to support that particular development. Finn later added that investing in business is a benefit for the city, and he said “I love this. I think it’s a great idea.”
Councilman Robb Casseday asked about “over-building,” for example, when a developer builds additional facilities which are not yet needed. If developers “oversize,” the city would pay for the materials, and any additional developers who use those facilities would pay the initial developer. Casseday was concerned about the costs to the city and potential problems with paying for oversizing. Casseday added, however, that he was “excited to see it get to this stage.” Casseday also encouraged the committee to get the proposed changes out to the community for discussion.
Councilwoman Donna Sapienza suggested the committee seek feedback from both developers and the Planning Commission. Sapienza also said she was, “pleased to support [the proposed changes] whole-heartedly.”
At the close of the meeting, Councilman John Gates, who was filling in for the absent Mayor Norton, concluded that the City Council had reached a consensus to present the proposed changes to the Planning Commission and the development community, and the would then vote on whether to implement the changes recommended by the committee.
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