EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

March 2, 2008

Deep impact Towns say development fees help offset taxes

More and more southern New Hampshire towns are turning to impact fees to help cushion the blow of constructing new school, public safety and recreation facilities.

Windham approved new police and fire impact fees last week and is considering recreation impact fees in the near future. Most area towns have some sort of impact fees, ranging from $2,000 to $7,000. They are charged for new residential construction to offset the cost of building new facilities.

But some say these impact fees, while helpful in the short run, don't really solve towns' financial problems, because they only cover a portion of the cost.

"If the town isn't committed to improving their infrastructure, then impact fees aren't really going to help them," said Chris Northrop of the state Office of Energy and Planning.

In other words, impact fees alone can't get a school or a police station built. Taxpayers still have to be willing to foot the bill for the bulk of the project.

Still, several southern New Hampshire town planners and administrative staff say the fees have helped offset taxes on capital projects.

"Absolutely, they have been a great thing," Plaistow Town Planner Leigh Komornick said.

Plaistow has collected about $189,000 for school, public safety, road and recreation uses. Like most others, the town charges a different fee depending on the type of residence being built and the kind of impact it will support.

The owner of a new single-family home would pay $2,916 in school fees, $469 in recreation fees and $636 in public safety fees before being able to occupy the home.

Windham has raised about $2.4 million since it started charging school impact fees a decade ago. The town charges a $3,400 school impact fee for new single-family homes, and the new fees adopted last week for police and fire will bring that figure to about $5,000.

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