Real estate impact fees could rise in Sycamore

By Carly Niceley

Sycamore is looking to increase real estate impact fees that would go toward new additions to the Sycamore Park District and Sycamore School District. This has caused a range of emotions from Sycamore residents.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, several residents spoke about Sycamore losing its “small-town aspect.” Many feared their grandchildren would be left without the finer points of a small town, since the city’s growth has been so rapid within a short amount of time.

“Sycamore has a small-town feel, the people aren’t as friendly and the city needs to say ‘no’ to any developers that come along. They are not givers, they are takers, and they are taking away our land,” Sycamore resident Carolyn Watson said.

City Manager Bill Nicklas recommended an increase of about 10.6 percent.

He said it is necessary because the value in the local market area has been greater than in previous years, so an adjustment is needed; he reassures the fees would go to the construction.

Impact fees on new developments would be collected at the rate in effect at the time the permit is issued.

The school contribution portion of new development agreements, including those proposed and postponed Monday, will help offset the projected $2,777 per student shortfall in Sycamore’s school district between 2005 and 2015. Each newly-developed home will be assessed a “voluntary fee” of $3,000.

“The fees would be going towards … building a new school and cannot be used for paying school salaries or books,” Nicklas said.

Many of the residents understand the need for a new school in the area. However, the introduction of a new park has caused mixed reactions within town residents because of the tax and traffic increase.

“They just continue to raise fees and it’s a vicious circle,” Sycamore resident Ken Anderson said. “And the impact fees continue to rise, housing goes up without any real value increasing,”

Mac McIntyre, president and CEO of eWorldLinks, Inc., posits that a reasonable alternative to the fees would be a real estate transfer tax proposal, with the tax revenues going to the schools.

“This is more fair than impact fees, because it is often the existing homes [from which] more school children come, so it would be more affordable,” McIntyre said.