The Kootenai County commissioners will wait until Thursday to vote on suspending county impact fees, the officials agreed after a hearing on Monday evening.
But after listening to roughly two hours of complaints about the fees, the elected officials said they were leaning toward suspending and overhauling the fees charged only to builders of new residential and commercial structures.
"The plan is to work this out, and if we reach such an impasse, we always have the option to put it out of its misery," said Commissioner Dan Green.
The commissioners on Monday were weighing whether to suspend collection of county impact fees, as well as repeal the table of fees charged by several agencies, including some county departments and various highway and fire districts.
The goal of the fees is for residential and commercial projects to pay for the additional demand they place on agencies serving their area.
The roughly 30 who attended Monday's hearing pointed out a slew of problems with the fees the commissioners approved last year.
Some said builders and businesses are deterred from investing here, because of the extra cost.
Many also argued that the fees aren't equitable, as structures are not charged according to their impact.
Marty Donovan said he is looking at paying $4,000 in impact fees to add an apartment to his pole barn in Athol.
"I don't think I'm going to be impacting any more than I am now," the Hayden resident said. "It's just a big burden on me. It's $4,000 I could be using to get that structure up and going."
Others pointed out that the fees won't be effective in helping agencies pay for capital improvement projects, as cities haven't come on board with collecting for the county fee table.
Plus, the fees are based on obsolete growth projections, others pointed out.
Brent Regan suggested to "put a fork in it" and repeal the fees completely.
But some agency officials and citizens urged to keep the fees, which they said allow districts to maintain services as growth continues.
"We didn't care," said Athol resident Janine Lilja of paying $1,500 in impact fees for a new structure on her property. "We have another structure on our property that impacts the fire station. That's another building they have to protect."
Mica Kidd Island Fire Protection District can only receive impact fees through county collection, said Chief Jason Blubaum, as its district doesn't lie within any city limits.
"When these new $400,000, $500,000, $1 million houses go in, there is an impact to us from a safety standpoint," Blubaum said.
The problem can only be addressed at the legislative level, said Larry Clark, commissioner of Northern Lakes Fire Protection District and member of the county impact fees advisory group.
He suggested trotting out new legislation to the state that gives fire districts autonomy over their own impact fees.
Green said he would also like to see state law tweaked, to allow agencies to handle their own impact fees, instead of the county collecting on their behalf.
"It would ultimately be up to them to sell it," he said of districts coordinating with cities about collection.
Issues with the fees won't be easy to correct, said Commissioner Todd Tondee.
"This is a very complex matter," Tondee said. "I believe in impact fees. I believe they're a tool, but not the answer for everything."