by Max Brantley
The developers win again. Don't they always?
The Little Rock City Board of Directors sent a proposed sewer impact fee — $275 for hookup of a new ho,e — back to the Sanitary Sewer Committee to appoint a new study committee and to study the issue some more. It is supposed to report in six months, when — all understand — it will be defeated or postponed again.
Lots of discussion tonight, but the long and short is that Director Lance Hines, the usual interpleader for west Little Rock developers, thinks it's unfair. People in the old part of time should pay, too, even for sewage treatment plants that couldn't serve them by geography if they wanted to. $275 on new homes could grow to the $1,500 charged in booming suburban cities like Bryant, he said. And somebody else mentioned that other cities (progressive ones) assess development fees to anticipate the new demands on police, fire, parks, water, streets and other city services on account of new developments. Little Rock city fathers — ventriloquist dummies for developers — have always said growth pays for itself. It doesn't. And I had to really laugh when Mayor Mark Stodola said the city makes develpers build sidewalks.
Red herrings aplenty were thrown out. You'd think Director Joan Adocck was really looking after poor folks and the potential hookup fees on the essentially non-existent development in poor wards that could be affected by such a feee. Whatever her inent, she winds up carrying water for the usual ruling fathers who don't want impact fees. Director Kenneth Richardson, who voted present on the delay, was his usual lonely voice of reason about a city development policy that blights vast and growing parts of town while favoring the favored.
As Mayor Mark Stodola noted, we've been talking in Little Rock city government for 30 years about impact fees. They fail time and again while other more prosperous cities adopt them. They were defeated again tonight. That's all you know and all you need to know. The rest is noise.
PS — I wrote earlier that the board had planned tonight to waive bidding on so-called economic development services and then award $300,000 in unconstitutional taxpayer subsidies to the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. The vote, meant to give a color of law to the baldly improper handouts, has been postponed for two weeks. Not to worry. The chamber — and its developer membership — will be served.