Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County was set to begin collecting impact fees on new development earlier this year, but said it needs more time to address how the fees are calculated and administered.

Commissioners last week changed the start date from Jan. 1 to July 1, when the county plans to have the program firmly in place and completes outreach to those who will most likely pay the fees.

County planners said an interlocal agreement with Frenchtown Rural Fire also needs more time.

“We spent a little time talking with the permitting departments in the county and the impact fee advisory committee about the outreach that was done,” said county planner Karen Hughes. “After that conversation, we needed to do some more specific outreach to builders, developers and landowners anticipating construction projects so they have more information about the impact fee calculations.”

The county in May adopted a resolution noting its intent to begin collect impact fees whenever a building permit is issued. Doing so would help ensure that new development pays its share of the cost of the services needed to support it, the county said.

The fees were recommended by an impact fee advisory board created in 2021 to study the issue. The board suggested that any fee include a 5% administrative fee, allows for annual adjustments for inflation, and waves certain fees related to affordable housing.

Hughes said the fees represent a one-time payment to cover the cost of services that come with growth.

“They are county wide, except for Frenchtown Rural Fire, which has its own impact fees,” said Hughes. “It's the same fee based on the type of use and square-footage.”

In 2021, the City of Missoula also approved placing impact fees on development in the greater Mullan area to ensure growth helps pay its way, particularly around the infrastructure needed to support it.

The cost of that infrastructure work, including engineering, was expected to push $35 million in the Mullan development area. The impact fees will cover roughly half of that cost over 30 years, generating around $18.6 million.

The county will begin collecting its own impact fees in July on a county-wide basis. But other fees will be more specific to certain locations, said Hughes.

“Those have a service-area map that comes with them,” said Hughes. “There will be different fees collected for different amounts based on the service area, and kept for that service area's use.”