Last Thursday night I participated in a transportation forum hosted by the Northfield League of Women Voters. It was a good forum, with Dale Maul from the Minnesota Department of Transportation Region Six, Dennis Luebbe the Rice County Highway Engineer, and Randy Peterson the City of Northfield Public Works Director all making presentations. I gave an overview of state funding from my position as State Representative from District 25B.

It is clear to me that people are wanting to see something done about both statewide transportation and local traffic concerns. There seemed to be good support for a sensible approach to mass transit from Northfield. I talked a bit about the new PRT’s….personal rapid transit system being developed right here in Minnesota. The group also talked about the need for another river crossing in Northfield….most likely at Jefferson Parkway and Highway 3. Randy Peterson presented information about the process being started to finally attain another river crossing….a lengthy, costly process.

One item that was brought up by people in attendance was impact fees. They asked that the Legislature look at allowing the collection of impact fees for transportation improvments. They reasoned that growing residential developments put the pressure on existing roadways, but the current property tax structure does not allow the City accesss to the funds it requires to meet the needs of larger transportation projects, such as a bridge over the Cannon River and railroad tracks. Impact fees have been in use by several states for many years. They are quite common in western states such as California, Oregon and Washington, as well as many eastern states. In California impact fees are used for roads, schools, parks, libraries, etc. The overall price tag for impact fees on a residential building lot may be $10,000 to $25,000. This is in addition to the normal infrastructure and land cost of the building lot. I have a concern that adding impact fees on residential lots creates a real class stratification in our society. Only wealthy people can afford to live in an area that includes such high impact development fees.

If you have thoughts on impact fees, please share them with me. Have you bought a lot and built a home in an area that includes impact fees? Do you feel there is economic diversity in areas that have impact fees? Impact fees are something builders and developers are talking about in Minnesota…I need to learn more about them.