By Bob Balgemann


Top officials of five local and two regional boards and organizations have come together to discuss with the city and Boone County Board possible changes to current impact fee ordinances.

Greg Brown, representing Belvidere Community Unit School District 100, told the city’s Committee of the Whole Jan. 25 that a letter had been written, conveying that message.

“Rather than a complete elimination of these ordinances, we are proposing a structure that would allow time to study the actual impact of impact fees may or may not have on residential construction in our region,” the letter reads, in part.

Signing the letter were, locally, officials of the Belvidere Board of Realtors, Boone County Conservation District, Belvidere Park District, North Boone Community Unit School District 200 and Belvidere School District 100. The regional organizations were the Illinois Realtors Association and Rockford Area Realtors.

The county board will have a public hearing on a proposed two-year moratorium on impact fees before the start of its Feb. 17 meeting. Then, during the meeting, the board will vote on the proposal.

Belvidere City Council last visited the moratorium question at its Oct. 19 meeting, voting 5-4 with one absent against approving Ordinance 506H that would have repealed the police, fire, public works and administrative impact fees.

Neeley Erickson, governmental affairs director for the Illinois Realtors, appeared at the Nov. 20 county board meeting. She also was representing the Belvidere Board of Realtors and Rockford Area Realtors, saying they all supported a two-year moratorium on impact fees.

The moratorium, she said, would be an avenue to encourage quality housing construction that would bring affordable housing choices to buyers.

“We are in a housing recession; Boone County growth is stagnant,” she said.

She said Realtors have provided information about the lack of housing inventory in the city. “We have provided information and examples of how other communities have eliminated or placed a moratorium on impact fees to encourage housing development,” she added. “Those communities are experiencing success. Our infrastructure is sound; we have room for smart housing growth.”

Alderman response

On Jan. 25, after Brown had his say and handed the group’s impact fee letter to Mayor Mike Chamberlain, Alderman Clayton Stevens addressed what the District 100 official said. A moratorium, Stevens said, would be “taking and giving the builders and such a freebie, when the interest rates are so low right now that you’re going to put this back on the taxpayers.”

“I’m not speaking personally,” Brown responded. “I’m speaking on what our board has authorized to put on the table, which is a two-year moratorium.”

“So, are you for or against it?” Stevens persisted.

“I’m not going to speak personally to it,” Brown replied.

“Once again I see the people who are going to make the money on these houses getting a freebie and putting it on the taxpayers again,” Stevens countered.

Brown told Stevens he “really should read the letter and see how carefully we put a proposal together that we would like you to consider.”

Stevens said he thought that was “the most ignorant thing I’ve heard.” Then he repeated what he had just said.

“I’m just here to report on what our board has authorized us to do,” Brown repeated. “It’s up to you guys to decide what you want to do. The builders will tell you it’s because of the impact fees that we haven’t seen new construction.”

Stevens didn’t agree, saying, “We haven’t had construction because of the recession from people overbuying and couldn’t pay for them.”

That was enough for Brown and he said, “I’m done.” He walked away from the podium in front of the meeting room and toward the back.

“I have a question for this gentleman,” Alderman Marsha Freeman interjected from a remote location.

“He’s gone,” Chamberlain told her.

“He’s already left because I pissed him off,” Stevens said.

Board policy

The mayor then addressed the board policy, which states when someone addresses a committee or the board during the public comments portion of a meeting that there is no response from any city official.

“What we do is put the item on the (next) agenda, which then opens up to the entire council for them to discuss the issue,” he said. “I never respond to people who come and talk at public comments whether I agree with them or do not agree with them.”

He added that was put in as a policy “so that everyone could feel secure in expressing a viewpoint in front of our body, without feeling that there were repercussions or they could get put on a grill or anything else like that.”

Then he opened it up to any alderman who wanted to propose changing that policy. If that’s the case, he said, “We need to examine that and have the entire council approve it.”

There was no response from among the aldermen.

Rather, Stevens reiterated what he had said earlier about a moratorium on impact fees putting the expense of development on the backs of residents.

Chamberlain said he would not comment on that, either, and moved on to the next item on the agenda, which was the proposed 2021-22 budget for the police department.

To read the letter and learn how impact fees complement growing communities and suppress shrinking communities, see the Jan. 21 issue of the Belvidere Republican in which Poplar Grove President Owen Costanza gives a comprehensive explanation.

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