After a big victory on Election Day, when voters approved a property tax increase to help pay for Durango Fire Protection District operations, the agency is resuming a push to implement construction impact fees.
The increased property taxes will generate about $1.3 million a year for long-term construction and vehicle needs. That increase will cover 76 percent of the district’s needs over 30 years. But impact fees are needed to cover the rest, said Fire Chief Hal Doughty.
If the La Plata County Commission and the Durango City Council approve the fees, developers would pay $988 per home and $1.44 per square foot for commercial construction within the fire district boundaries, Doughty said. The district covers 325 square miles, including Durango, areas along U.S. Highway 550 and a small portion of San Juan County on the district’s northern edge.
“We have worked really hard to simplify this,” he said.
Doughty would like fees to be implemented within the next few months.
The impact fees are intended to cover the fire district’s construction and equipment needs that will be driven by growth in the community. Growth projections for homes and commercial buildings would generate about $424,000 a year in impact fees.
The Colorado Legislature passed a bill last year allowing fire districts to charge impact fees to help pay for equipment and buildings used by fire and emergency medical services to accommodate community growth.
Developers in Three Springs, Edgemont, Twin Buttes and areas around Purgatory already pay fire impact fees. The fees vary based on location. The proposed fire district impact fees will lower some existing impact fees because of the revised structure.
The fire impact fees in Edgemont will decline from $1,000 to $988, he said.
Homes in Three Springs in excess of 1,400 square feet will pay less than under the current structure, while those smaller than that standard could pay a bit more, Doughty said.
The fire district is not allowed to base its fees on a home’s square footage, even though that might seem intuitive, Doughty said, noting that many people asked for an explanation during public meetings before the election. Instead, the district must base its fees on call volume. Doughty said emergency services are called more frequently to small homes than big ones. During the last seven years, the department has experienced a 7 percent increase in call volume each year.
The fire fees Doughty is proposing are substantially lower than fees the district proposed in January, in part, because the district no longer factors in the estimated $9 million required to rebuild the downtown fire station. The fire district has $5 million set aside to replace the building, and it expects to receive $3 million from the city for the building over 15 years.
The remainder of the costs could have been paid for with existing revenues, prior to the new property tax revenue being approved, he said. The district was planning to rebuild the fire station regardless of whether voters approved the new taxes.
The previously proposed fees were $1,183 per new home and $1.72 per square foot for commercial property.
Doughty held public meetings on the fees earlier this year, but the fire district, City Council and county commission halted the process to focus on the property tax increase.
“We were very, very close to completing this,” he said.
At a recent meeting, city councilors seemed amenable to implementing the impact fees. The La Plata County Commission has not scheduled a vote on the fees.
San Juan County commissioners approved the fire impact fees in July. The fees would apply to a small southern portion of the county.