The company behind the first development subject to Plain City’s impact fees is asking officials to give them a bye.
M/I Homes requested a waiver of three different fees associated with the proposed Darby Station residential development, Village Administrator Nathan Cahall said during council’s most recent work session.
In a 4-2 vote in November, council approved preliminary plans for the 336-acre development along Route 161.
It will have homes intended for young families, “move-up” housing and a “pocket community” for empty nesters.
Prior to that, in September council approved three types of impact fees – roadway, sanitary sewer and public safety – intended to offset the negative effects of developments on Plain City’s infrastructure.
Cahall noted that the impact fee ordinance allows council to consider a reduction or full waiver of the fees if a developer is constructing the improvements that impact fees would be used to create.
The request will first go to the planning and zoning commission, which will submit a recommendation to council before its review.
He said M/I Homes requested a waiver of the roadway and sanitary sewer impact fees. They also requested the parks fee is waived, but Cahall said it is not actually an impact fee and is included in subdivision regulations.
Council was receptive to the developer’s proposition surrounding the roadway fee, but skeptical of the other requests.
Cahall said the traffic impact study associated with the Darby Station development suggested the creation of a traffic signal “in the vicinity” of Route 161 and Butler Avenue.
Rather than paying for the cost of a signal, Cahall said M/I Homes requested to add a roundabout “a few hundred feet further east.”
In return, the company asked for a full waiver of the fee of $823.95 per unit for 522 units.
He said the developer considered the cost differential and village staff agrees the cost of the roundabout is “fairly close” to the impact fees that would be paid over several years of buildout.
The village administrator added that the roundabout would be installed “day one” of the project, while the Ohio Department of Transportation likely would not approve the construction of a signal until “phase five of seven of this project.”
Ultimately, the waiver of fees in exchange for the roundabout would be a “judgment call for council,” Cahall said.
“That one is a fairly straightforward one,” Cahall said. “There’s not a lot of mental gymnastics.”
Several council members noted that they and the planning and zoning commission requested a roundabout is added to the final development plan, anyways.
“The roundabout sounds like a wash,” said Council President John Rucker.
The sanitary sewer waiver request, though, “would require a most robust sales pitch,” he said.
During the planning and review process, village staff determined that the development could be served by an 8-inch force main, which would directly connect to the sewer plant.
However, Cahall said staff recommended a 10-inch main “for future planning purposes.”
“We don’t want to put in an 8-inch line today and ask the next developer to rip it out and replace it all the way to the plant,” Cahall said.
M/I Homes estimated a 10-inch line will cost approximately $520,000 more than a 10-inch pipe, but Cahall said the village is waiting for an estimate from an engineer.
He noted that pipes closer to sewer plants generally have larger pipes to accommodate for surrounding developments.
“It is standard procedure,” he said. “If you are downhill from someone, you have to take that downhill flow from your neighbor.”
To make things more equitable, Cahall said it is “not unusual” to enter into an agreement in which any future developers that connect to the force main over a set period of time must pay an extra surcharge that goes toward M/I Homes’ impact fees.
For upsizing the line and associated pump station enhancements, M/I asked for a waiver of the $1,098.60 fee per unit for 522 units.
“My initial inclination is an ‘absolutely no’ on that, barring any additional information going forward,” Rucker said.
Council was similarly opposed to a waiver of the parks fee.
Though not an impact fee, developers are required to pay $1,000 per unit for the zoning permit of a new house. The funds are earmarked for future capital improvements and land acquisition for parks.
Cahall said village staff already declined this request, as did the planning and zoning commission.
The request can still go directly to council, without a formal review or recommendation by the planning and zoning commission, but Cahall encouraged council to seriously consider what the development is adding to the community that would warrant a waiver.
“What kind of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious park or open space is this development providing… that is an extra spoonful of sugar in your tea?” Cahall said.
The green space designated in the preliminary plan is approximately 40 acres south of Route 161 along the Darby Creek. Rucker said the description of it as green space is “extremely questionable.”
Cahall said the developer’s request for a waiver references the 20 acres north of the development, which is donated to the village per ordinance not by a choice of M/I Homes.
“There was some slick writing here,” he said.
Council member Shannon Pine said she was not particularly open to the developer’s requests, aside from the roundabout exchange.
“Let’s be honest, M/I is not paying these impact fees,” she said. “They’re passing them on to the people purchasing these houses.”
Mayor Jody Carney said she feels it is important to create consistency surrounding the impact fees.
“As new development comes in, we want to be fair across the board,” she said.
“Part of me wants to say, ‘We have impact fees for a reason,’” he said.
The planning and zoning commission will review the roadway and sanitary sewer roadway request at its upcoming meeting, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday via Zoom.
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