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.
- City of Lancaster, California Home Page
- Full Text of Lancaster City Code Chapter 15.64: Development Impact Fees
- Lancaster Planning Commission at (661) 723-6100
- Carfree Cities – This website proposes a daring solution to the problems associated with urban automobiles.
- Land Use Article Archive – by the American Planners Association.
- Recommended Reading:
- Stacy Mitchell’s book The Hometown Advantage: How to Defend Your Main Street Against Chain Stores and Why it Matters.
- Christopher Alexander et. al, A Pattern Language: towns, building, construction, New York, Oxford University Press, 1977