Public Safety Impact Fees Coming to Chester

CHESTER – The planning board is looking to implement impact fees to fund vehicle needs of first responders. Impact fees are a mechanism under which new development helps pay for the needs of specific entities, in this case first responders’ vehicles.

Jack Munn of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC) met with the board Sept. 11 with an update on the progress of an impact fee schedule tied to public safety vehicle needs.
The planning board has already set up impact fees for the highway department, but earlier this year asked SNHPC to create a schedule for police and fire.
Impact fees work to make more equitable the cost of growth in a town. Every time a new house or business comes into town, the pressure increases on its infrastructure. Instead of relying only on property taxes for the revenue necessary to serve residents in the way they expect, impact fees tie that cost to the developer, the one making money off the new construction.
Munn said his group spent the summer gathering the data to create a fair way of assessing the fees. The fee calculation is tied to estimates for public safety use by those who will reside in several types of construction, from single family homes to businesses to elder care facilities.
Munn explained that the impact fee schedule needs to be tied into a formal planning document that estimates town growth and the capital needs that come with that growth. Chester has a Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which, with input from town departments, outlines those needs for years to come.
The impact fee schedule outlines current vehicle infrastructure and value, a timeline for replacement and estimated replacement cost.
Munn said Chester’s fees as drafted are in line with communities across the country, but Chester was on the leading edge of this work in New Hampshire.
The police schedule is completed, and a draft was presented to the board for review. Munn expects to have the fire schedule done in the next couple of weeks.
Munn added that the planning board could amend the schedule or lower the fees if it considers them out of line, but he warned that money for capital costs needs to come from somewhere, and if the fees are reduced, taxpayers would pick up that difference
Planning board member Andrew Hadik said he would like to act on the matter as quickly as possible and urged the board to set a date to review the methodology.
Munn said he would send in the fire schedule as soon as it was complete, so that both documents could be reviewed together.
The board agreed to review the documents at its next planning session, Oct. 9.

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