When Joe Knabel took his oath of office as a new member of the Eagle Town Board last year, he made a pledge to himself that he would be an active participant in municipal government.
He quickly became involved with the Eagle Chamber of Commerce and turned his attention to a on-going need in the community — how can Eagle attract and retain new businesses?
Being a data-analysis kind of guy, Knabel approached the new business issue by crunching some numbers. He looked at the cost of building permit fees, water and sewer tap fees, and other upfront costs businesses face when they look at opening shop in Eagle. He then took the information and compared it with charges from other municipalities ranging from Frisco to New Castle.
“I found that our building permit fees definitely fell within the average,” said Knabel. But at the same time, Knabel found that the costs associated with launching a new Eagle business can be daunting after all the various fees are paid. What’s more, and in classic Catch-22 fashion, Knabel learned from Eagle town staff that axing fees isn’t a desirable plan when Eagle is facing large capital projects, such as a new water treatment plant, that will be financed in large part by development fees.
But after a conversation with Jen Wright and Carol Glasson of Wright Development Company, one of the principals behind the Eagle Ranch development, Knabel was able to find a fee compromise.
When a new tenant leases space in a building that has already been constructed, he or she faces large water and sewer tap fees. That’s because the original builder has likely only stubbed in service, not knowing what the eventual use will be in a given unit.
The business incentive program proposed by Knabel in conjunction with Eagle town staff members offers business owners a 50 percent discount on water and sewer tap fees when they will result in a “higher use in existing commercial properties.” The thinking behind the discount is that the town will recoup the investment with higher sales tax and other revenues resulting from a new business.
“The reality is the big developers pay relatively small tap fees because they don’t know what’s going in a particular building,” said Knabel. That leaves individual business owners on the hook for the real tap fee amounts, at a time when cash flow is critical.
“Those kinds of costs can make or break a project,” he said.
Knabel noted the Eagle Town Board unanimously passed the ordinance creating the discount program on May 28. Additionally, the board declared it an “emergency” ordinance, meaning that it took effect immediately. The emergency provision was approved, in part, after a potential business owner testified that the new rules would affect his decision of whether or not to open his operation in town.
“We have created an opportunity for businesses,” said Knabel of the new program. “There are empty spaces all around our community that can benefit from this.”