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Committee: Borough Willing to Negotiate on Sewer Tap-in Fees

A new fee schedule for multi-residential projects will not be adopted, but the borough will be open to lowering tap-in fees for those developers.

In an effort to incentivize development and hopefully provide a boost to earned income and property taxes in Phoenixville Borough, the finance committee recently discussed possibly lowering the tap-in fees for multi-residential developments.

After an initial discussion in July, finance committee members asked Borough Manager Jean Krack to get more information together on possibly lowering the fees. Krack returned at Tuesday’s meeting with numbers from surrounding municipalities. Phoenixville charges $4,100 per equivalent dwelling unit (EDU). Fees from surrounding municipalities were as follows:

-Norristown, $4,100

-Collegeville and Trappe, $3,000

-West Chester, $2,332

-Pottstown, $1,545

Each EDU consists of 240 gallons, Krack said. For senior housing in the borough, Krack told the committee that the typical use is only 45 gallons per day, about a fifth of what the fee covers. One-bedroom apartments, as well, use fewer than 240 gallons per day typically, Krack said.

For water fees in the borough, multi-residential developers pay a reduced rate as set out on the borough’s fee schedule because in higher density developments, less water than average is used.

“That’s the genesis of where this came from,” Krack said.

Richard Kirkner, committee member and council president, asked Krack if the borough could negotiate with developers on the cost of sewer EDUs. Krack said that could work, and laid out the two options—either put it in the fee schedule that costs are reduced for senior housing, condos and townhomes and apartments or negotiate with the developers as they come in.

“One is an advertisement to developers that we’re open for business,” Krack said. “The other is a negotiation that we’re open for business.”

Kirkner asked if there could be some sort of combination of the two, where a lower fee could be adopted and the developer was still free to negotiate.

“I think you should be comfortable just being able to negotiate with the developer,” Krack said, adding that council could have input on the fees.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Dana Dugan said she felt negotiating with individual developers was the best option. No action needed to be taken by either the finance committee or council on the matter. In the future, sewer EDU costs will be open to negotiation.

“That gives us the most amount of leverage possible,” Krack said. “That’s a really fair way to go about it.”

In other finance committee news, the committee voted unanimously, with Kendrick Buckwalter absent, to recommend that council approve a $4,500 transfer from the fund balance to the legal account for legal advertising.

Krack said council did a lot of work with ordinances in 2011, and he noted that some advertisements could cost as much as $800. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has its own rules for projects, so if the borough is working with PennDOT, legal advertising must appear in two newspapers instead of one, costing extra. 

Richard A Breuer August 18, 2011 at 12:46 PM
The 'negotiation' of these fees is unlawful and nonsensical. The Borough Code (53 P.S. §10507-A(a)) requires that a municipality that imposes tap-in fees for water or sewer must calculate those fees in the same manner that applies to a municipal authority. The Municipal Authorities Act sets forth extensive provisions for calculation of these fees. It also requires that the fees “shall be based upon the duly adopted fee schedule which is in effect at the time of payment.” 53 Pa.C.S. §5607(d)(24). Phoenixville Borough Ordinances impose water (§26-122.D) and sewer (§18-302.D) tapping fees for each dwelling unit. Those fees are $3,320 for water and $4,100 for sewer, or $7,420 in total per dwelling unit. The council could lawfully adopt a different fee schedule for multifamily residences 53Pa.C.S.§5607(d)(24)(i)(V)(f). Seems that adoption would have to be an amendment to the existing tapping fee ordinances. The idea that these fees should be established by ‘negotiation’ with the developer is contrary to statute. It is also terrible public policy, in that it is an invitation to backroom deals, made outside of public view, and an abrogation of the responsibility to set fees, which rests with council. The recent announcement of a development to include 275 apartments tells us that there are fees of over $2 million that would be put into play by ‘negotiation.’ I can only wonder why the sudden push to unlawfully negotiate the fees.

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