The Town now has the fiscal impact analysis of the 600-plus acre proposed Woodmont Commons Planned Unit Development (PUD).
Lucy Gallo, managing principal of Development Planning and Financing Group, Inc. (DPFG) of Chapel Hill, N.C., presented the analysis to the Planning Board at its Wednesday, June 26 meeting.
“The scope of work for DPFG on this project was to look at the planned land uses for Woodmont Commons at build out and determine their impacts on the Town of Londonderry’s general fund,” Gallo said.
Gallo said it is typical to look at the general fund because most elected officials and planning boards are interested in what impact that particular land use will have on property tax rates. She said that in order to make the analysis, they used “constant dollars and the current property tax rate.
“For the baseline financial analysis we used the town’s 2013 budget,” she said. “The market analysis for the commercial components were based on 2013 market data, with an additional 15 percent discount for conservatism, and in-depth analysis provided by town staff and the school district for police, fire, community development, recreation, library and operating capital costs.”
“With the capital costs as they increase, do you look at those increasing in proportion to the population increase?” board member Lynn Wiles asked. Gallo said that with new population, whether it be commercial or residential, police and fire department costs would increase, as well as the impact on roads, recreation and library. She explained the reason she chose to look at town departments was to be sensitive to growth. The company looked at those not at a one-for-one per capita, but at what Londonderry’s level of service is.
“For the tax benefits to the town’s tax base, we know Londonderry, like most other communities across the country, is largely dependent on residential taxes,” Gallo said.
She said the commercial uses in Woodmont Commons “would serve to be a balancing approach as the town looks at fiscal sustainability and hopefully lessening the burden on the residential taxpayer base.”
At build out, Woodmont Commons would produce an annual positive fiscal impact of $1.4 million, she said, and over the 20-year build out, the cumulative fiscal impact is anticipated to be over $12.3 million.
“Woodmont Commons is expected to bring in 3,600 new residents and 3,700 new jobs to the town, based on its planned use,” Gallo said. Wiles asked if there were a margin of error built in.
“We build conservatism into the analysis from the get-go,” Gallo responded.
She said she put together what she considers a conservative approach to the commercial aspect of the plan, noting that there weren’t any projects in the area for comparisons. “Based on what the developer’s plans are, we would expect that the commercial aspect would come on sooner rather than later and come on with gusto and momentum for it to be successful,” Gallo said. But she called it premature to predict in any particular year what the results would be.
Gallo said that at build out they were anticipating the general fund expenditures would increase annually by $3.7 million. “As you might imagine, police, fire and public works are going to be the departments that are most impacted. So I think that is all falling out as one might expect,” Gallo said.
Gallo said that as far as the Londonderry School District, the district has available capacity, unlike other communities that might be facing this kind of residential growth.
“Fortunately this project is expected to generate an annual net surplus of $7.31 million for the school district,” Gallo said.
Assistant Public Works Director John Trottier said his department wasn’t set up to handle an urban setting, adding that Londonderry was not urban. “Lucy indicated that her future costs were based on an average per capita process and I know that public works is very difficult to determine. From my limited understanding of fiscal impact analysis, I just don’t think that the analysis gives the true impacts to the Department of Public Works.
The setting being proposed for Woodmont is a city type. The town currently has minimal equipment to perform in an urban setting for summer and winter operations.”
He added that the impact doesn’t address solid waste or sanitary waste collection and disposal.
Craig Seymour, president and managing principal of RKG Associates, which is the third party reviewer of the project, said there were differences in professional opinions in terms of methodology and some of the assumptions that were made, but overall he concurred with the results.
“Given the assumptions that are presented and the assumptions on how the development will be developed out in the future, that once it’s built there will be a positive net fiscal impact,” Seymour said.
Seymour said they don’t know according to the master plan what the development is going to look like and under the PUD regulations, that’s fine, because that’s what PUDs allow.
“From a fiscal impact perspective, it will generate more revenue primarily from property taxes than it will cost the town to serve it,” Seymour said.
Seymour said he thought that there should be an agreement that the fiscal impact statement would be periodically reviewed over the building out of the PUD. That would allow the town to say, “OK, we’re getting off track here,” and it could be reconfigured if need be.
The issue that came up most was the possibility of negative impact one year and positive impact in others, and board members Chris Davies, Tom Freda and Wiles asked that the analysis be for build out 20 years down the road.
The consensus of the board, given that the analysis showed a positive impact, was to request a worst case scenario to be produced by the Woodmont team to give another view of the impact for consideration. The board voted unanimously to continue the meeting until July 10.