ATHOL - More than $70,000 in impact fees that have been collected from about 30 property owners, builders and developers in the Timberlake Fire Protection District over the past 18 months will be returned to those who earlier paid them.
The Timberlake board of commissioners in December decided to refund the fees and later sought legal advice on how to return the money to builders and developers.
"We believe this is the right thing to do given the uncertainty of the impact fee program ever being brought back," said Timberlake Commissioner Rudy Rudebaugh. "Why hold people's money when we're going to have to give it back anyway?"
Timberlake's decision came after the Kootenai County commissioners voted 2-1 to suspend impact fees for at least 18 months. Timberlake covers the Athol, Bayview and Careywood areas.
Impact fees help fund equipment and structures for various taxing districts, including some county departments and fire and highway districts, to accommodate the pressures of new growth.
Property owners and builders who have paid the impact fees will soon receive a letter on how to be reimbursed for the fees. Those with further questions can call the Northern Lakes Fire District, which is handling Timberlake's administrative matters, at 772-5711.
Rudebaugh said Timberlake will miss the income from impact fees, but the district's board believe returning the money is the best choice given the Kootenai County's board decision to suspend them.
"There's a need for (the fees)," Rudebaugh said, adding that some districts, including Timberlake, are cash-strapped and the fees make new growth pay for itself.
Threats of litigation and helping spur on new growth amid the recession were among the reasons for suspending the fees.
The county plans to develop a work plan to address the myriad issues that have stemmed from the fees, charged only to builders of new residential and commercial projects. There will be an internal review of the county's progress in one year.
Not all taxing districts have been collecting impact fees.