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Thread: Bedroom community viability

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Bedroom community viability

    Hello, all. My little town has been presented this month with proposals for various projects which, when added to a couple already approved, could add over 600 new houses to our current count of fewer than 150 households. We are almost exclusively residential now- a couple of small businesses dot the highway, and larger towns nearby provide for our shopping needs- and my question is this: are there specific studies that suggest residential growth alone does not pay for itself? I keep hearing this, and have even heard numbers quoted (such as the "statistic" that taxes & etc. cover only around 75% of what a household costs to service) but am a little confused about why that should be. Is this idea familiar to you folks? Each new home adds to the service burden but impact fees and taxes are supposed to cover that- aren't they? How do we survive now, with little or no business, without going in the hole every month? Is this statement based on holding taxes constant? Can anyone direct me to any hard facts to unconfuse me on the subject? And/or share more general wisdom? Thank you!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian michiganplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by maximov
    - a couple of small businesses dot the highway, and larger towns nearby provide for our shopping needs-
    That will change, and it will get worse before it gets better. With 600 new roof tops developers will climbing over each other to put a pharmacy (Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, whatever is in your region) on every corner. And even though the economics of grocery stores suck, they too will be clammering to open the biggest and best stores. Certainly some genius is going to equate 600 new homes with "gotta have a retail center with a huge water shedding nightmare parking lot."

    Don't let my screen name fool you, I am not a planner. I am an Economic Devloper trying to get people to do things right. And unless your municipality has a plan for its skyline to be dotted with roof tops and not commercial properties-its gonna get ugly. It'd also be worthwhile to look at things in a regional capacity. Make the guys next to you deal with the traffic congestion and fickle at times retail market.

    I guess I should have turned the rant button on..sorry.
    I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

  3. #3
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    You have to be a little careful of the information you have heard. While commercial does pay more in taxes than residential, that is because most of the costly services are population Dependant. The right type of residential development can come close to paying for itself. The folks that say that is doesn't usually are not figuring that these folks also pay for water, sewer, garbage, etc. from the jurisdiction. The commercial and industrial uses would not look so attractive if all of their costs were figured in. (new roads, and other infrastructure)

    It takes some serious analysis to determine if any development will pay out in the end. If I were you I would hire Cardinal to figure it out for you.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    There's a boatload of research out there that does "Cost of Community Services" studies to look at the broad question of whether or not residential growth pays for itself. Look on the American Farmland Trust website. Those are general studies, of course, and don't look at the nitty gritty of individual development- you'll need a fiscal impact analysis to really get at individual development impacts. The basic gist of them is that the farther out residential development takes place, the more it costs to service that development with cops, medics, ambulances, fire protection, schools, etc.. and that, in the end, it costs more to service them. All the COCS studies are fairly general, however, and distance to existing services is definitely a factor.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    You guys are fantastic- within moments of reading through your responses I had articles and COCSs crowding my desktop. Better yet, I was inspired to be careful about interpreting what I will read.

    I guess I should have turned the rant button on..sorry.
    On the contrary, michiganplanner, hearing your frustration heightens my alarm, which can only be a good thing, right?

    It takes some serious analysis to determine if any development will pay out in the end. If I were you I would hire Cardinal to figure it out for you.
    Ah, yes- maybe (when it's too late) I can convince them to spend some of those shiny new impact fees on a real planner.

    Vaughan, "COCS" was just what I needed, along with mention of the AFT, whose site I now remember has helped me plenty in the past.

    Now on the hunt for studies quoted by orgs whose interests would be served by the opposite result... (unless one of you kindly tell me it will be fruitless).

    Thanks!

  6. #6

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    Remember vaughan's warning about COCS studies - they are very general, and they don't always turn out the same way. It depends on your state's tax structure and your local history of infrastructure development. Utah has a somewhat unique method of financing education, for example, and a lot of your fiscal reality will be determined by the nature of your existing services. A good example is the fire dept. At your size it is predominantly, if not entirely, volunteer. If you grow enough you will have to begin professionalizing it - getting over that threshold will probably be difficult politically, but it will certainly re-arrange the local budget in a big way. A COCS study cannot predict what happens as climb over that type of threshold!

    You need to require the developers of these large parcels to pay for real fiscal impact studies. The best source in your part of the world is the Rural Planning Institute in Durango.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    The best source in your part of the world is the Rural Planning Institute in Durango.
    Great plug for RPI!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    A good example is the fire dept. At your size it is predominantly, if not entirely, volunteer. If you grow enough you will have to begin professionalizing it - getting over that threshold will probably be difficult politically, but it will certainly re-arrange the local budget in a big way. A COCS study cannot predict what happens as climb over that type of threshold!

    You need to require the developers of these large parcels to pay for real fiscal impact studies. The best source in your part of the world is the Rural Planning Institute in Durango.
    Okay, this 'threshold' thing explains it for me. Thank you. Yes, our FD is totally volunteer- the town budgets very little if anything for it, depending on grants & donations for even basic needs. Our chief often cautions the town about subdivisions and annexations. The same will happen when we have to go to sewer treatment. Can new development be made to pay now for taking us closer to that threshold, so that fixed-income residents aren't forced out by the cost of switching to city sewers? I guess that should be in our new cap. facilities plan, fresh off the engineer's table this week. Off to the RPI.

  9. #9

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    You can make new development bear a lot of the cost, not all. This will require a very good facilities plan on which to base impact fees.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    ...It takes some serious analysis to determine if any development will pay out in the end. If I were you I would hire Cardinal to figure it out for you.
    Thanks for the plug!

    Giff is right, there is a lot more to figuring this out than simply looking at studies done elsewhere. Individual circumstances can mean that 600 new homes in one community might be beneficial, while it might raise costs in another community. Even then there are certain intangibles to be considered. Does your city want a grocery store? (10,000 population) a pharmacy? (15,000 population) Attracting residents can be part of an economic development strategy and be desirable to a community even if it does end up raising costs some.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Good thread!

    Dont forget, this growth might be GOOD in some ways for your 150 home hamlet, bringing services to your residents that otherwise might not be close by. I guess it all depends on your spatial relationship to other communities inthe region....

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Yes, I agree that the right development could be beneficial. But we are only about four or five miles from a grocery store and gas station. About 35 from one of the top fastest growing cities in the nation. And, though undeveloped park land is even closer, 12 miles from the main entrance to a national park. Results of a public opinion survey, just barely compiled, say the people would like a gas station, maybe a general store, but overwhelmingly want to be rural. Some of those houses mentioned would be well above us elevation-wise, in a place that currently takes a lot longer to get to than the grocery store.

    Does the Rural Planning Institute really exist? I can't find it! Not online, now that's rural

    Thanks.

  13. #13
    I think it will be a good thing - locals will have new customers for their businesses, and folks doing the commute get an affordable place to live.

  14. #14

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    National League of Cities case studies

    This web site has a nice database of issues to browse over. One of the best things about it is that the give you the source for the data, meaning you can contact the city and dig further.

    This issue has confronted many towns and they have several examples of how others have dealt with it. Best of luck!


    Sid

  15. #15
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    as well as the good comments above, you might also want to hink about a few other things:

    growth control - that is, approving the 600 units but it gets constructed in a phased operation over a 5 year period (or more) so you can plan and implement necessary services and possible changes to the zoning to accommodate the growth

    because yes, goods & services providers follow the homes and you want to take care and plan effectively for that so you don't have a corridor of commercial crap but a village approach (if that's what you want)

    and as others have said, your local government services also need to grow with the changes

    I think the bottom line is that you need to figure out how you want the rest of the town to look when this 600 homes are built

    good luck and keep us posted

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I would think that a big concern in Utah -- or most rural communities but especially the West -- would be water. Whatever the water system is now, be it private wells or municipal water system, would be seriously impacted by adding 600 new homes. I think that your town will hit the "threshhold" on this long before it hits the threshhold for the VFD.

    Most of the 150+/- families/homeowners currently in the hamlet are familiar with the seasonal limitations of rural water supplies, but don't count on that being the case with the people in the new development, most of whom are probably coming from cities or developed suburbs. They will want to turn on the tap and get full pressure while washing cars, running dishwashers, and filling swimming pools, etc.

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