A street impact fee for new construction proposed for Dallas Monday could help pay for streets, traffic signals and sidewalks for which the city never seems to have enough money.
The suggested fee could be around $1400 on each new single-family home and much more on bigger projects like shopping centers or apartment complexes.
Dallas Builders Association Executive Director Phil Crone said the fee would further add to the soaring cost of construction materials and to the expense builders face from extremely slow Dallas building permits.
“It does feel like a slap in the face for homebuilders and everybody in the city,” Crone said. “Dallas is already a competitive disadvantage both from the cost standpoint and just from the suburban shift we’ve seen since the pandemic came on. The city needs to be thinking about policies that bring families back in instead of pushing them back out.”
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Lee Kleinman is about to complete eight years as a Dallas City Council Member watching transportation issues.
“The reality of it is, when you build an apartment complex or an office tower or something like that, you are bringing more traffic into a neighborhood,” Kleinman said. “These impact fees help offset some of that.”
New reports presented to the Dallas City Council Transportation Committee Monday showed more than half the city’s 1,400 traffic signals are more than 40 years old. Hundreds of them can’t communicate to synchronize and manage traffic.
Dallas city leaders want a walkable city but some places have no sidewalks and others have very old walkways with a policy that makes property owners pay to fix them.
“We're looking at eliminating that part of the program so the city just carries the burden of sidewalk repair.
City officials suggested an unexpected increase in sale tax revenue could pay for needed pavement markings that urgently need replacement but the rest of the needs remain largely underfunded.
“This is what people expect their city taxes to pay for and this is quality of life,” Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said. “So far today, all of these things need to be better funded for our residents.”
But several members also said the new fee on new construction would be very unpopular.
“We are trying to build houses in the southern part of town, and we don't want to turn developers around and say here is an impact fee. I can see in the future we could do it but right now we need more housing to get built on the ground,” City Councilman Tennell Atkins said.
Councilman Chad West wanted more input from builders before taking a position.
“We need to vet it out on who it is going to impact before council starts making recommendations,” West said. “I’m not going to feel comfortable supporting this today.”
A briefing document said the city was planning to spend $600,000 to hire a consultant to take input and study possible revenue from the new fees.
“That’s probably the most Dallas thing ever, that we’ll pay several hundred thousand dollars to have a study to ask us what we think about it and give the city a recommendation and as you can see here, we’re doing it for free,” Crone said.
According to a Dallas briefing Monday, among comparable cities in Texas, Houston and San Antonio do not have street impact fees, but Austin, Fort Worth, Arlington, Frisco, Garland, McKinney and Rowlett do.
Crone said those that have the fee have large vacant areas that may support large new developments that need entirely new roads and sidewalks.
In Dallas, Crone said new construction is already paying its way with requirements to build those improvements in locations immediately adjacent to a new structure.