Local urges impact fee changes to plan commission

The potential of waiving impact fees for developers in Watertown may gain steam following a public input session during a plan commission meeting Monday.

Local commercial real estate broker Ken Berg proposed to the plan commission the possibility of waiving impact fees.

The fees imposed by local government on a new or proposed development project help pay for costs of providing public services to the development. Berg, an active community member having served on the school board for 12 years, the council for 18 years, has been a commercial real estate broker in Watertown for the past 25 years, said that by waiving fees, the city would incentivize developers, which could bring increased development to the city.

“It is hard work creating growth in property valuation and numbers, or population in a city and I feel impact fees are one important way of providing incentives that will help,” Berg said.

Berg said the location of the city should be able to attract developers as it is between Milwaukee and Madison, but developers are not coming in due, in part, to the impact fees.

Berg used city documents to help illustrate his point showing that the impact fee per residential dwelling unit for the city is currently $6,305. He also showed that over the past decade, the city’s population has only grown by 91 residents despite an increase over the past few years in residential construction, which he said inadequate for growth and development in Watertown.

Berg said he would like to see more private tax building properties as the city needs to grow the tax base. Berg said the incentive of no impact fees would help in this issue by bringing more developers in. Berg presented Waterloo’s August decision to waive impact fees for two years in its city as an example of a nearby and smaller city trying to promote growth. Impact fees have even had an impact in his line of work as he explained he had two commercial property deals eventually fall through due in large part to the impact fees for the businesses.

Although no official decision could be made during the meeting, some members of the commission asked Berg how Waterloo’s decision has impacted their city, but Berg said six months is likely too early to see an impact as marketing and the passing of information on the decision would need time to reach developers.

Berg seemed optimistic about the meeting and his presentation following the meeting.

“(The) Plan Commission is the perfect legislative body to go in front on on this topic,” Berg said. “I know there is interest in looking further into this from what I heard from board members and the mayor.”

No action was taken on the idea Monday.

In other news:

  • The plan commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for an electronic message monument sign for St. Mark’s Lutheran School, 706 Jones St.
  • The plan commission also unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a new fitness training studio at 746 N. Church St.
  • The Watertown Finance Committee during its meeting Monday gave city engineer Jaynellen Holloway permission to pursue two of the three parcels off of West Haven Drive from MSA Professional Services, but said the city should decline the firm’s gift of a third parcel with a private stormwater detention pond.

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