After having done this journalism thing for more years than even than the average age of most of my peers, I’ve realized it’s like pulling weeds.
I was accommodating my wife, Melody, last week on a warm day with my annual spring show of pretending to do yard work. It involves donning uncomfortable gloves, collecting splintery-handled tools, a lot of loud sighing and strategic hand-on-hips poses as I lament the chaos that is our yard.
Eventually, after a long segment of narrating the damage of the winter to just about everything, the iced coffees are taken away and I’m left to crawl around on my hands and knees and actually pull the weeds.
It’s always the same weeds. Rarely is there anything new or interesting or easily confused with something we’d want in the yard. Just thistle, wild lettuce, dandelions, creeping this, noxious that and invasive everything.
Damn weeds. Journalism is a lot like that.
This week, city lawmakers and deep-thinkers inside Aurora’s fancy city hall had a brainstorm about “impact fees.”
That’s a word only real professionals like journalists, city lawmakers, developers and city administrators bandy about. Don’t actually try it at home. It’s a lofty word for taxes, levied against building something new in Aurora.
Years ago, and years before that, city leaders realized that if you build a big housing development out on the plains, it costs a fortune to pump water out there, drain sewage back, police the streets, and that was after spending a boatload of dollars just to build the streets.
So city types, not just here, but everywhere, invented “impact fees.” If you want to build 1,000 homes out toward Limon, the city would make you pay for some or all of what it costs to make it all happen. Of course, in reality, anyone buying a home in Limonish Aurora paid those fees. The rationalization is, “let growth pay for itself.”
I blame a lot of gray hair on having to listen to these arguments that go back and forth for decades.
The argument against impact fees is that cities that don’t charge them often win the development, warehouse, or big fancy hotel. Cities know this, so it becomes an expected part of negotiating with some businesses or developments, but not others.
As you might expect, snuggling up to important city lawmakers, or donating mightily to their campaigns, doesn’t hurt your chances of turning a few thousand dollars in campaign checks into millions of dollars saved in impact fees.
It’s just the cost of doing business for everyone. Think of it as the Weed and Feed of the development world.
Just when I thought this invasive topic had been brought under control by heavy use of Pandemic and Surging Growth Roundup, it sprang up again at a recent city council session.
New faces pointed out to other new faces that, hey, we make growth in housing developments “pay their own way,” but not businesses.
Lawmakers almost unanimously agreed what an inequity and lost opportunity for big bucks it is to not charge new retailers for traffic signals and warehouse centers out in the middle of nowhere for more police cars that will probably rarely if ever drive out that way.
Amid the deep and comprehensive discussion was the lost nugget that businesses already pay far, far more in property and “use” taxes that residents pay. It’s like five-times as much on buildings worth a lot more than a house.
That same deep-rooted sucker popped up at the Legislature last week as Democrats tried to legislate away a giant looming property tax increase that creeped across the state. That toxic spurge sprung up in a large part because the same legislators persuaded voters a few years ago to yank out the Gallagher Amendment from the state Constitution, which for decades has made businesses pay way more for property taxes than homeowners — and would you look at that TABOR thistle right there in the middle of the Great Lawn of City Hall again?
Just when you thought our government leaders had all this under control, the public has to get out there and see what’s springing up at city hall and the Capitol and whether it’s worth watering or just another invasive thing to fret about from now on.