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Case against traffic impact fee is weak: Guest view

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Robert Seader, former Silver Spring Township supervisor
Robert Seader, former Silver Spring Township supervisor - (Photo / )

Jason Scott did a good job of covering the story about Silver Spring Township's Traffic Impact Fee at surface level; his reporting was mostly accurate; however, it was quite incomplete.

The actual reason most Pennsylvania municipalities don’t have a Traffic Impact Fee (TIF) is because they don’t know it exists, not because they’ve decided against it, as asserted in the article.

Then again, most Pennsylvania municipalities are not booming as is Silver Spring Township; therefore no growth equals no revenue, thus no reason to consider an impact fee. Silver Spring is booming due to our location and market demand; the TIF will not affect either of those realities. The editorial conveniently picks up where the article concludes, proclaiming the “fee is wrong” but it presents no alternatives. FYI, Carlisle Pike is a state road and warehouses do not create wealth in our community, but yes, the township roads are indeed “increasingly overwhelmed.” Anyway I’m left to wonder — what (or who?) prompted coverage of this story, at this time, and why such a negative tone based upon such limited research?

I was a primary driver of the Silver Spring Township Traffic Impact Fee and remain proud of its achievement. As responsible stewards of the public treasury, we supervisors were faced with a choice between substantial multi-year tax increases to support the ever-increasing costs of growth (particularly infrastructure) or requiring the developers who create and profit from that growth to pay their fair share of its consequences. Per your editorial — “someone has to pay for all those roads and signals,” the simple question was: Who gets the check? The simple and logical (and unanimous) answer was to safeguard the taxpayers and neighbors who place their trust in us to represent their interests and guard their wallet. Here’s the full story:

In September 2016 the Silver Spring board of supervisors voted 5-0 to enact a Traffic Impact Fee and embarked upon the very precise process mandated by the Commonwealth to ensure fairness to all, including developers and investors. A TIF advisory committee of citizens was appointed by our board as required by law for the purpose of recommending the amount of the fee, not to “approve” it, as suggested in the article.

Joseph Ricci suggests in the article that the TIF is responsible for a dwindling supply of development proposals. Whether that’s a bad thing, or even accurate, is a topic for another forum, but his opinion that the township is somehow in a more favorable position to “negotiate” with developers for improvements they are not otherwise legally required to fund without the TIF than with it defies logic. The TIF is the only available tool to encourage any discussion about repercussions beyond the immediate parcel being developed. Silver Spring Township has always welcomed smart growth but we will not subsidize it.

The project culminated with Ordinance 2017-14 passed in December 2017 by a 4-1 vote. As reported in the article Supervisor David R. Lenker II voted against the final ordinance in December 2017, but the article didn’t report that he voted for the project in September 2016. The fact remains: The TIF is exactly what all five of us set out to achieve a year-and-a-half ago and I truly hope this story and editorial are not precursors to a repeal effort.

Robert Seader is a business manager in the manufacturing and distribution industries, an active member of the community, and a former Silver Spring Township supervisor.

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