Who should pay costs incurred due to development?

January 26, 2006 11:00 pm

Mayor Chuck Hofmann summed up the Baker City Council's dilemma on the matter of the Elm Street Local Improvement District.

"I think it's good public policy to extend that road (Elm) from G to H," Hofmann said, "but I don't think it's a fair thing to do."

This proposed LID turned into a Catch-22 for the city — and illustrates why the issue of planning deserves more scrutiny in Baker City.

Hofmann's right: Extending the road would be good public policy. New development on Elm Street north of the fairgrounds means more people and more cars — and more need for paved streets in places where dirt and gravel have heretofore been adequate.

But the method the city employed to achieve the street paving goal — the Local Improvement District, or LID — requires property owners who aren't creating the new pressure on streets to pay for a portion. In some cases, that tab was projected at upward of $100,000 for a property that contains a potato shed.

"The property owners are happy with the street as it is," Hofmann said in moving the council to cut back the scope of the LID. "This LID is not being created because of the people who were there originally. (David Bowers') development is what precipitated the need."

Hofmann's right that the city needs to better explore its use of LIDs. They can be useful — or divisive.

Out of fairness to neighbors and developers alike, Baker City needs to explore who should pay the costs associated with development.

Right now, our community is growing slowly, so these issues crop up one by one.

However, as towns like Bend and Boise demonstrate, a lack of planning and sudden and accelerating growth can turn into real headaches.

It's a good topic for the council, or the city's planning commission, or the next election cycle.

Not to talk about it further, however, would be both unfair and bad public policy.