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Impact fee moratorium may extend

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Council makes no decision on Bibby case

By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

Prospective builders need to get in on the action while they can–the Williston City Council  held its first reading on an ordinance that would extend the moratorium on impact fees until March 2014.

The second reading is scheduled for April 9–the same night three councilmen will be formally sworn into office. There will be no April 2 meeting, the council decided.

However, it was the impact fee issue that demanded most of the attention Tuesday.

The council was weighing information brought to light two weeks ago when Pyper Kub restaurant owner Dave Bibby said he’d been assessed more than $12,000 in impact fees while another restaurant had not been charged–and perhaps should have been by as much as $18,000.

Tuesday night, City Manager Scott Lippmann presented council with several options that could help resolve the issue.

Among them were: do nothing, do nothing about Bibby but assess the other restaurant, reduce both restaurants’ fees by a certain percentage, refund Bibby’s fees and do nothing with the other restaurant or assess the true impact both businesses are having on water and sewer and assess accordingly.

However, City Attorney Fred Koberlein had words to share on Lippmann’s proposals.

“They’re common sense, “ Koberlein said, “”but that’s different from the law. You must enforce the laws on the books.”

In short that means, because the impact fee ordinance calls for businesses to be assessed, the other restaurant, identified as Melanie’s by President Jason Cason, should be assessed.

Before Melanie’s opened, then City Manager Marcus Collins, the city building official and the city utility supervisor deemed that the restaurant, once a convenience store, did not warrant an assessment and issued a Certificate of Occupancy without fees.

However, it was later brought to former City Manager Pat Miller’s attention by both Bibby and staff about the inequity of the situation and nothing was done.

Koberlein said the city sat idly on its hands doing nothing and he thought both the city and the business owner should know the law.

Council members sympathized with Bibby but Cason and Councilor Charles Goodman both said they needed more information–specifically how much money was in the impact fee account and how many people had paid it–before they could vote on a resolution.

Councilor Cal Byrd said it was obvious that someone working under the direction of the city had made a mistake and this council needed to take steps to make it right.

He suggested refunding Bibby’s money, giving him an apology and then do away with impact fees once and for all.

But Cason said he wanted to hear from Stephen Bloom, the city’s accountant, to know what kind of fiscal impact the city would face if the fees were refunded.

Bibby, who spoke to the council on three separate occasions Tuesday, implored them to abolish impact fees.

He said about $99,000 had been collected since 2007 and that wasn’t even enough to hire an engineer should the city need to expand water or sewer.

“Impact fees do anything for the city of Williston,” Bibby said. “You know who they are [those who paid impact fees]. Refund the money and be done with it.”

But council stood firm and directed Lippmann to come back at the next meeting with who paid the fees and how much.