ATLANTA - Pinched by sharp cutbacks in state and
federal financing, local governments around the nation are demanding
privat e developers pay a larger share of the cost of expanding
community road networks, sewer systems and other public services that
are burdened as a result of the developers' projects.
Cities' and counties' growing reliance on exacted fees to offset
the effects of development is expected to redefine the way that many
local governments raise millions of dollars to rebuild or expand
public facilities, according to specialists in how land is used.
In contrast with the past, when developers were required to make
public improvements only on their own property, these exactions are
intended to help pay for public services, such as new roads, schools
or expanded police and fire departments, that are required to serve
the new residents or workers drawn by the developments.
The use of these new fees, which were first imposed in the
fast-growing areas of Florida and California, has generated
considerable controversy among private developers. Some refer to
such paymentsas a kind of ""blackmail'' by local governments.
The trend is widespread, especially in the high-growth areas of
the South and West, where local governments are under the most
pressure to expand public services.
In the suburbs north of Atlanta, developers of several large
office complexes have agreed to contribute fire trucks, a new police
station, an expanded freeway interchange and improvements in the
sewer system to help offset problems created by their projects.
In Boston and San Francisco, officials have gone even further,
requiring that developers of downtown projects put money into funds
that will be used, among other things, for construction of housing.
""For 40 years we have relied on the federal government to help
finance improvements in infrastructure, whether it was a new stadium
or sewage plant,'' said Robert Gerber, chief of the Department of
Planning and Community Development of Fulton County, which includes
""With cutbacks in federal aid and the anticipated loss of
revenue-sharing money, the burden is almost entirely on local
resources, and we just can't absorb these kinds of costs without help
from the private sector.''
In several intances, developers have taken local governments to
court, some of them successfully arguing that the fees or assessments
constitute a form of illegal taxation. But others have chosen to pay
the fees rather than fight, reasoning that it will cost them less in
the long run.
""I think most builders are resigned to the facts of life and
realize there are going to be these kinds of fees because the Federal
funding just isn't there to pay the bills anymore,'' said Gus Bauman,
a lawyer with the national Association of Homebuilders in Washington. …