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Impact Fees Vs. New Business

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KALISPELL -

On December 17, a Kalispell advisory committee decided to recommend a $3,500 increase to the wastewater impact fee, and that leaves us wondering, could this hurt businesses?

It is almost like a four letter word in Kalispell: impact fees. They are supposed to be new growth paying for new growth, that is, newcomers footing the bill to expand utilities to service all of the growing community. A Cabela's spokesman, Wes Remmer, says that impact fees paled in comparison to the potential profits from the new Flathead Outpost.

"The impact fees became insignificant when we looked at the entire scope of the project," said Remmer.

Not everyone agrees with that gamble.

"Impact fees really affect, and can negatively affect, the ability to create new jobs," said Joe Unterreiner, the president of Kalispell's Chamber of Commerce.

Someone has to pay for new infrastructure, though. In terms of the wastewater impact fee, the hike is due, in part, to the nearly $22 million expansion of the wastewater treatment plant back in 2009. An expansion that was necessary because of Kalispell's growing numbers. Unterreiner says he worries who will have to fork over the most: residential, commercial, or industrial users.

"We're gonna be looking closely at the proposed new sewer rate impact fees to see what the distribution is," said Unterreiner.

The wastewater impact fee is something the chamber will keep on its radar and, worst comes to worst, it would not be the first council action the chamber has opposed.

"In a case such as transportation impact fees, which was something we opposed, it has now been repealed. There was a, we felt, an onerous overly negative impact applied towards new construction," recalled Unterreiner.

Unterreiner says the Valley's recovery from the recession has been slow, and an exorbitant impact fee has the ability to throw us back down the hill if businesses start to think twice about opening their doors in the Flathead.

City council will consider the latest stamp of approval on the wastewater impact fee toward the end of January.

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