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Duncan continues to protest impact fee contract

Thursday, June 9, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Jim Duncan, former director of planning for the city and an expert on transportation impact fees, is once again asking City Council not to follow staff’s recommendation on which firm to hire to perform a transportation impact fee study. Council is scheduled to consider awarding the $1.18 million contract to Kimley-Horn at today’s meeting. However, Council Member Leslie Pool told the Austin Monitor that she has concerns and will likely ask for the item to be postponed. Mayor Steve Adler, along with Council members Ann Kitchen and Delia Garza, are in Washington, D.C., this week for the Smart Cities presentation. Duncan, who is retired, noted in an email that he has considerable experience with impact fees, having “co-authored the Texas Impact Fee Act, created the website and prepared impact fee studies for the cities of Atlanta, Raleigh, Kansas City, Lincoln, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Minneapolis, Little Rock, Boise, Baton Rouge, Memphis, Salt Lake, Tucson and Phoenix.” He told Council in Wednesday’s email that the team recommended by staff, “while loaded with engineering firms … includes no planning or legal firms and only minimal representation from fiscal impact and economic analysis firms (who do not appear to have much impact fee experience). For example, who will draft required fee ordinances and, if litigated, defend the study and fee schedule?” In addition, he added, “I also want to restate my serious concern with staff’s estimate of how much this study should cost. They are asking for more than twice what other major cities have spent for similar studies. While Austinites may love our many “number one” rankings, I doubt that setting a new American City spending record for an impact fee study would be one they would positively embrace.” Duncan, who is chair of the CodeNEXT citizens advisory group, believes that the second-ranked firm, Freese and Nichols, is the better choice for the job. He said that because it is so difficult for Council to vote against a staff recommendation, he would advise them to have both consultant teams appear before Council and make presentations. This would allow Council to ask specific questions regarding their expertise and arrive at their own decision about what is best for Austin.

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