ST. JOHN — A vote to adopt a road impact fee to provide the future infrastructure needed to serve the town's development has been deferred 30 days. 

The five-member advisory committee, made up of local Realtors and builders/developers, would like more information before making a decision. 

As Town Manager Steve Kil put it during the impact fee meeting on Monday, "It's a very complicating process." 

The town is considering doing something only four other communities in the state have done in adding the fee, which would be collected with every building permit issued by the town.

The town hired a consultant, The Arsh Group, which conducted a months-long study of the town's growth and of the development around St. John that would have an impact on its roads. The study projected out a decade's worth of growth and looked at how many trips are generated by each type of development.

After determining there would be about $80 million needed for road costs over the next 10 years, consultants said the flat rate for a single-family home fee would be $5,443. For industrial it would be $5,279 and commercial, depending on square footage, up to $20,000.

Those are the maximum rates allowed at 100 percent but they could go lower. What the advisory committee did not learn until Monday is that the percentage of the rate does not have to be the same across the board for residential, commercial and the like. That is one of the issues it would like to explore more before making a final decision. 

Several developers and builders attended a recent public meeting on the impact fee and expressed concerns.

Joe Lenehan, a resident of the town and employed by local builder Olthof Homes, said there needs to be a much more comprehensive view on how to improve the roads. 

"I feel this could end up being a destructive thing," Lenehan said. "I want good infrastructure here. I live here. Growth is a good thing for this town. I don't think we've done all the work that needs to be done in order to know the effects of something like this would be." 

Ed Kelly, of Kelly Construction Inc., in Crown Point, and past president of the Home Builders Association, said he can "emphatically state we don't endorse any impact fees."

"If it gets too darn expensive in St. John, they're just going to hop to another community and they're still going to hop on your roads and you're going to have the same problem but not fees to collect them."

Kelly said he appreciates there is an issue with the roads and something has to be done, but it can't be done just on (adding to) the building permits because those are already expensive.

Jack Slager, a St. John resident and who represents St. John developer Schilling Development, said they are not opposed to some fee at some point, but it needs to be part of a comprehensive road improvement plan.

The fee covers the cost of new roads and increased capacity on existing roads to meet the demands of the development. It cannot be used for road maintenance. Only four other Indiana communities have enacted the fee, and they range from about $1,000 in Zionsville and $2,200 in Fishers to nearly $3,000 in Westfield for residential. Noblesville has impact fees that range from $517 to $1,378 for different types of residential development.

The committee will make a recommendation of a fee during a meeting at 9 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Town Hall, 10955 W. 93rd Ave. A public hearing will then be held at the plan commission before the matter is sent to the Town Council for final action.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.