Boulder: Linkage Fee Phasing Source of Debate

The City Council recently discussed the timeline for adding linkage fees to new commercial projects to help fund affordable housing. Fees are typically applied when a developer applies for building permits, but what about projects that have already been through the site review process? Should they be charged the linkage fees – which could amount to thousands of dollars – even though the fees were not part of their initial project financial calculations?

Some Council members said it didn’t seem equitable to charge developers for projects that are already in the pipeline. Others, like Suzanne Jones, seemed less concerned about equity and more concerned about how much money the City could lose. “As we try to figure out what is fair, I think we need to consider what is fair to the taxpayers and not just what is fair to these developers,” she said. “If we put this off, how much are we leaving on the table?”

Private sector representatives who spoke at the meeting objected to the process, which was described as “ad hoc” and “leaving a little to be desired.” Adding to the confusion is that the linkage fee is an interim step. Boulder is reviewing all its development fees as part of a comprehensive effort with new fees intended to be in place by 2016. At the end of the discussion the City Council asked the staff to keep working on the “trigger” for the ordinance and bring it back for further discussion.

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