New fee plan asks less of developers in Zebulon

amoody@newsobserver.comMay 20, 2014 

A work crew clears land at the future site of a BB&T data facility on North Arendell Avenue in Zebulon in early April. An ordinance adopted in early May is designed to save developers money on fees charged for impact to the town’s transportation system.

AARON MOODY — amoody@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Town leaders recently approved a transportation impact fee for new developers while also updating Zebulon’s long-term transportation plan.

The new strategy for collecting fees is designed to take some of the burden off developers and make building in the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction more attractive. It’s been an option the town has had since amending its charter in 1989, but hasn’t put to use until this month.

Zebulon formerly held bonds for at least 110 percent of the construction costs of roadway improvements required of new developers based on the transportation plan. The transportation impact fees are calculated based on the land use and traffic impact.

“It’s going to be a lesser fee than the total amount of the bond,” said Zebulon planner Julie Spriggs. “The developers are going to come out ahead on this. It will be a less of headache for them to pay the fee up front than it would be for them to have to keep up the bond.”

Town staff at an April planning board meeting used the local Bojangles as an example of the savings developers stand to witness. They told the board the bond on Bojangles at this time is about $74,000, and the transportation impact fee for the restaurant would total about $58,000.

For the time being, developers will notice even greater savings. The town approved a plan to offer a discount of 45 percent in an effort to ease the transition to the new fees and to be competitive with other towns.

“Every budget year, we’re going to look at that fee, look at the discount and the project list,” Spriggs said. “One could change, both could change, or none could change.”

How it works

The fees are imposed on any development that requires a new building permit, including upfits to existing properties. Collected fees are placed into a trust fund that is treated like a bank account for roadway projects throughout town.

No single project cannot exceed 50 percent of the total balance in that account. Collected fees are kept together in the trust fund but each collection is tracked separately because they must be used within six years of the time they are deposited, or the town has to refund the fees plus interest.

“We want to use all the funds that come in first on the first projects,” Spriggs said, noting the list of top projects would be driven by priority capital improvement projects related to transportation.

In the meantime, the town is proposing another charter amendment that would give Zebulon the OK to use 100 percent of the trust fund balance on a single project and extend the time frame it has to spend a collected fee to 10 years.

Those who during the development process complete some of the work that matches the scope of one of the town’s transportation improvement projects will receive a dollar-per-dollar credit.

A modernized plan

Commissioners at their May meeting also breathed new life into Zebulon’s 13-year-old transportation plan, which gives a long-range look at future mobility needs in Zebulon.

The plan identifies solutions that guide future spending on transportation needs, including roads, sidewalks, bike lanes and public transit. It is a component of the town’s code of ordinances and comprehensive plan.

Although it’s been gradual, growth and the pressure it has added to the town’s transportation system over the years were the driving factors in the need to update the plan.

A work group composed of town staff and elected officials removed from the 2001 plan projects that no longer advanced the town’s transportation goals and added others that do. They also reviewed and edited maps, and held discussion with attorneys on the authority to receive the transportation impact fees.

Added projects include improvements to Arendell Avenue from Pippin Road to Proctor Street; to Gannon Avenue from Pineview Drive to Rotary Drive; and to Arendell Avenue from Proctor Street to U.S. 64/264.

Two greenway projects were also added to the long-range plan – a connector for the Taryn Meadows and Weaver’s Pond subdivisions and the other connecting Zebulon Community Park to N.C. 39.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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