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Voters to decide on raising fees for construction companies

In less than two weeks, Columbia voters will decide whether to raise fees construction companies pay to build new homes and businesses.

The city plans to collect the money for new roads. The idea has gotten a lot of attention in the last month.

A campaign committee called Citizens For a Better Columbia, backed by local developers, formed at the beginning of the month to defeat the plan.

On the other side, some city leaders continue to spread the word about why the fee hikes are needed.

The campaign for proposition 2 picked up this week as yard signs started popping up and commercials hit the airwaves.

Some voters even got a mailer illustrating with rhymes why they should vote against the fees.

While some say they are needed to keep Columbia’s infrastructure on pace with its growth, others said the fees are nothing more than new taxes.

“Proposition 2 is not a tax. It is a charge that will be levied on the developers of new homes and new commercial buildings,” said 4th Ward councilman Ian Thomas.

Thomas said he feels prop 2 is necessary in order to keep growing Columbia’s roads and infrastructure.

Right now, a charge of 50 cents per square foot is levied on in all new development, but that could change soon if prop 2 passes.

If that’s the case, builders of new residential units would be charged $1 per square foot. $1.50 per square foot for non-residential construction low impact, meaning not adding a significant amount of traffic to the roads. $2 would be charged for high impact residential buildings.

“I would definitely say it’s a tax,” said Brian Toohey, Director of Operations of the Columbia Board of Realtors.

Toohey said he feels it’s a tax because with other fee increases in the past, council voted on it.

“So, the fact that they are having to send this for a public vote tends to make me feel this is a tax increase,” said Toohey.

One, he said could affect grocery prices, home sales, and renters.

“It could potentially increase all tax because that new structure is built and they have these higher costs they are going to factor those costs into that development.”

Thomas said there is no way sales taxes are going to be affected by this, though the price of homes may go up.

“It will affect people purchasing new buildings. New people moving to Columbia will pay more for their homes assuming they will pass on this additional cost,” said Thomas.

Thomas pointed out though with this added fee, taxpayers would be paying 20% less in infrastructure capacity costs.

If prop 2 passes, the fee would be phased in over a three-year period. These would not apply to additions on those buildings.

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