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City to consider increase in park fees for new homes

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GREENFIELD — A fee on new homes in Greenfield could rise this week in an effort to bring in more cash for the city’s parks department.

The park impact fee, established in 2009, is an expense that homebuilders pay whenever a new dwelling is erected. It generates revenue for park features throughout the city, and the Greenfield City Council will decide this week whether to raise the fee to make way for recreation improvements through 2023.

The current fee is $1,107; the increase would make it $1,153, with a 3 percent increase annually.

While the hike would make it among the highest park impact fees in the Indianapolis area, city officials say it will help bring quality-of-life features to the city in the future, spurring more development.

“We need to have the money to keep the parks up… and have excellent parks for people to use,” said Mayor Chuck Fewell.

Fewell said as more people move to Greenfield, more trails, shelters and green space is needed. The park impact fee, he says, brings in the revenue the city needs to keep up and make the city attractive for even more growth.

That was the theory behind the park impact fee when it was established five years ago. Ellen Kuker, director of the parks department, said the fee has brought in roughly $381,000 in the past five years, and it has paid for trails at Beckenholdt Park and paths that link neighborhoods to the Pennsy Trail.

In the future, she said, the fee will continue to pay for trails, as well as shelters and gazebos and land acquisition for more park space.

The proposal for a higher fee, presented to the city council for the first time last month, is up for final approval Wednesday. It predicts a growth of Greenfield’s population to nearly 31,600 people by 2023. With that, an additional 4,079 homes could be built, bringing in $4.7 million to the city’s parks department.

Harold Gibson, local surveyor and a member of a committee that studied the fee, said home builders don’t mind paying a fee if they know it’s going to something that will sustain the community. The state Legislature a few years ago established rules on park impact fees, so they can only be used for new features to parks because of population growth. Local officials, Gibson said, have made sure the fee is a modest increase for trails and new park space.

He said with the downturn in the housing market, the fee hasn’t brought in much in the past five years, but the city will need more park space if more people move to Greenfield.

The expense, he added, is typically passed on to the buyer.

 “At the end of the day, everybody who buys the house pays for it,” Gibson said.

According to the proposal, the new fee will be slightly higher than the average park impact fees in the Indianapolis area. Noblesville, Carmel, Fishers, Franklin, Westfield and Plainfield are some of the communities that have a similar fee; the average is $1,074 per new home.

Kate Johnson, government affairs director for the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis, said if the fee is established appropriately, it could be a benefit to the community and homebuilders alike.

“When fees are developed appropriately, our members understand this helps spur efforts for development, and when we have attractive parks and amenities it helps bring members to the community,” Johnson said.

City councilman Jason Horning said a raise in the fee makes sense.

“I’m OK with that because the cost of doing projects is going up,” Horning said. “That’s something we’ve got to make sure we’re staying in line with so we can have good facilities for people. If we want people to move here and live in Greenfield, we’ve got to have good facilities.”

Shelters, trails and park space were the three goals set five years ago when the fee was established, Kuker said, and will continue to be the focus in the future.

“I hope the city council sees value in this plan,” Kuker said. “We’ve been able to accomplish some amazing goals for the city of Greenfield that without these funds we would never be able to accomplish.”

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