COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County commissioners voted 2-1 on Thursday to suspend the county's new impact fees, in the hope of later reviving the fees with a more effective implementation.
"It's the mechanics. I think that's the reason there's threatened litigation out there already on these," said Commissioner Todd Tondee before the vote in the county administration building. "Part of the suspension is to get these where the mechanics are less controversial than they are today."
The commissioners voted to create an ordinance repealing the current impact fee schedule and suspending collection of impact fees for 18 months.
In the meantime, the county will 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, said Commissioner Jai Nelson. After another six months, the commissioners will decide to restore the fees or repeal them for good.
"We can look at the progress, or lack of progress, at that time, and decide whether to do away with them," Nelson said.
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.
Many issues need to be addressed with the county fees, the commissioners said. They spoke of tweaking growth projections, possibly refunding some fees, and having districts amend their lists of improvements that the fees will fund.
"Part of the work plan might be dealing with several options," Nelson said before the vote.
The commissioners also plan to pursue new impact fee legislation.
Commissioner Dan Green hopes to see individual districts given autonomy to implement their own impact fees, he said, so the burden of collection is no longer on counties and cities.
"I have trouble with how the legislature put it on us to collect for other districts. That's flawed," Green said.
Builders pursuing projects during the suspension period will not be charged impact fees.
Green cast the opposing vote on Thursday, though he favored suspension. His only concern was that the ordinance didn't call for refunding collected impact fees if the retooling fails, he said.
"I'm in favor of saying, 'If we can't fix this in 18 months, bury it and give them their money back,'" Green said during deliberations.
Tondee even pushed for county departments to refund their fees immediately, though the other commissioners argued that would be premature.
The county can refund its own departments' fees, but can't force other jurisdictions to do so.
Revising the fees is the best move, said Larry Clark, commissioner of Northern Lakes Fire Protection District and member of the county impact fee advisory board.
Clark has already drafted legislation that would give fire districts in Idaho the authority to develop and implement impact fees on their own.
"I think there's a good chance (of it working)," Clark said of the legislation. "Fire districts, they realize it's their last chance."
The county had collected just over $400,000 in impact fees, since the commissioners approved collection last year.
Green was unsure if the county impact fees, roughly four years in the making, would make a comeback.
"We try things that sometimes don't work," he said.