Development fee eliminated near highway
It just got a little bit cheaper to start construction near the E-470 tollway.
The E-470 Public Highway Authority’s board of directors voted last week to eliminate a development fee charged on all new construction within 1½ miles of either side of the 47-mile highway that loops around the eastern edge of metro Denver.
The fee had become more work than it was worth and eliminating it will free up resources for local governments and encourage businesses to locate along the corridor, according to representatives of the highway and the cities and counties through which it runs.
Implemented in 1989, the highway-expansion fee produced about $300,000 for the toll road each year. But E-470 officials said the revenue was negligible compared with the $200 million in revenue the tollway reports each year, about 85 percent of which comes from tolls.
The fee was an important source of revenue to get the tollway project off the ground. While the road was still under construction, and in the years before it became a popular route, the development fee was one of the
sources of cash for the tollway authority.
Though all of the revenue went to E-470, the county or city issuing the building permit calculated and processed the fee, which the board said placed a significant administrative burden on staffing resources.
“Building permit requests continue to go up each quarter,” said Arapahoe County public works spokeswoman Caitlin Wilson. “From our perspective, (discontinuing the fee) will eliminate some back-end paperwork for us to do more inspections.”
The E-470 corridor goes through eight local governments: Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, and the cities of Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Parker and Thornton. Each local municipality had its own rate for the highway expansion fee, depending on the type of building and specific location of the development.
“As development grew in the E-470 corridor, the number of highway expansion fees grew,” said E-470 spokesman Dan Christopherson. “Local governments were seeing their processing administrative burden growing to a tipping point.”
While this fee was eliminated for developers looking to move near Denver International Airport and gain easy access to a major highway around eastern Denver, E-470 increased tolls in the past year.
The highway’s executive director, Tim Stewart, said tolls were increased to help service the $1.5 billion in debt the highway authority took on to build the expressway. Stewart said he doesn’t think the fee stopped developers considering building near the highway, but he hopes eliminating it will help spur growth in the region.
“We believe there will be continued development along E-470,” Stewart said. “The east side of Denver is ripe for development, so I think it’s going to be a very vibrant area. I think the local jurisdictions have done an extremely good job of attracting that along the corridor. We’re just happy to do anything we can help stimulate that.”