Distance-Based Impact Fees – Lancaster, CA

Date: 12 Jan 2009 | posted in: environment | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In 1993, the city of Lancaster developed an innovative model for assessing impact fees on new development. Known as the Urban Structure Program, the model included a surcharge levied on new development beyond the central core (5 mile radius).

The further out from the central core, the higher the surcharge. A typical new house located within the core, for example, incurred an impact fee of $5,500. The same house located one mile beyond the core incurred a fee of $10,800.

The model relied on a computer program, updated annually, that calculated the cost of providing city services for a particular development. Clever developers were able to reduce their fees substantially by designating their subdivision streets as private ways.

One goal of the model was to ensure that outlying developments paid their true public costs. Many city services are more expensive to provide in low-density developments located far from existing service areas. Often residents of the urban care shouldered a portion of these added costs. Lancaster’s model required these outlying developments to pay their full costs.

Thanks to Randall Arendt, GreenerProspects.com, we have a 2012 update to this rule. He writes:

This fiscal approach was never subjected to any large-scale test, however, as homebuilding slumped several years later, after which city policy changed. Beginning to doubt the wisdom of continuing to allow sprawling development, and increasingly concerned about potential lawsuits, the Council decided in a 1997 General Plan update to reduce the area where urban development would be permitted, effectively prohibiting outlying residential development subject to distance-based impact fees. The new boundaries for urban development encompass approximately one-third of the incorporated area, land which is mostly developed already, but allowing for infill and modest extensions of the current urban fabric. In addition, a number of outlying areas that had previously been designated for urban development were rezoned to permit only rural densities.

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