Cranberry levies new fee on commercial development to enhance parks

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA), 2014-07-03

July 03 --For about 20 years, Cranberry has been levying a fee on developers of residential properties, asking, in essence, for money to build the township's recreational offerings for the new residents who will swing on the municipality's swings, play on the ballfields, swim in the pool and putt on the golf course.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been collected via this recreation impact fee and it has been used to build, maintain and enhance the township's expansive parks and recreation system.

Now, Cranberry will lead the way in Western Pennsylvania in extending that fee to developers of commercial properties with the justification that new commercial construction brings new employees and those employees are just as likely to impact the township's parks and recreation programs either by a walk in the park, a pick-up game of basketball after work, a noontime workout on the new outdoor fitness stations that have been installed in two of the township's three large parklands.

Following the lead of communities in the eastern part of the state that has been doing so for a few years, Cranberry supervisors passed an amendment to its land development ordinance this month allowing the assessment of the one-time recreational fees on new commercial and institutional buildings. The vote was unanimous and there was no protest from the development community.

"It's about keeping pace with our mission to serve our residents and our entire community, including the business community," said planning director Ron Henshaw . "Having a well-developed parks system is a big part of that mission."

While developers have the option of dedicating recreational space and amenities to the township's existing parks and recreation system in lieu of the fee, most developers have simply paid the fee. The amount of the fee is calculated with a formula that looks at the township's long-term plan for parks development, the anticipated costs of that development plus maintenance expenses, then dividing a portion of those costs on the anticipated growth through the 2030 -- when Cranberry is expected to reach the point of being built-out.

The fee for residential units had been $1,050 per unit until the enactment of the amendment that broadens the reach of the fee. Now, developers will pay $1,022 per residential unit and commercial developers will pay $918 for every 2,500 square feet of commercial space under roof. Public schools and municipal buildings are exempt.

Mr. Henshaw said the new non-residential recreation impact fee is expected to generate about $3.123 million by 2030.

The current recreation fund balance stands at $749,867 . This year, the residential component is expected to produce $181,000 . A year-by-year estimate hasn't been made for commercial recreation fees. Last year, the residential recreation impact fee produced about $455,000 -- an unusually high number because of the high number of multi-family dwelling units that were constructed.

The township estimates its current population at about 29,500 residents -- a number that swells to about 50,000 during the day when workers are within the municipal boundaries.

"Our daytime population basically doubles. With all those people coming here to work and play, we know that there's an impact on the park system -- a need that has to be filled. To accommodate our residents and our other users, we need to do this. It's a fair thing," he said.

The township's population is expected to top out at 50,000 by 2030.

The long-term plan for the township's parks and recreation system calls for expansion of all existing parks and amenities. No new park is anticipated at this point. A new comprehensive plan is soon to be in the works. This long-term look at township needs is done every five years.

Karen Kane : or 724-772-9180.

Karen Kane : or at 724-772-9180.


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