After a week or so of fine-tuning, the city of Mission on Wednesday released the final transportation fees that will be levied against commercial properties to help finance a 10-year, $38 million road plan.
City officials have been meeting with property owners during the past week to get a better fix on how the so-called "driveway tax" would be applied to 3,278 properties.
The fees were submitted to Johnson County so they could be attached to the property tax bills that will go out at the end of the year.
Based on information collected from various property owners, the city had gone back and reworked the fee, which will likely be smaller in some cases than the numbers the city first circulated.
Believed to be the first of its kind in the Midwest, the new fee is aimed at properties that produce the most traffic and put the most wear and tear on roads. Big-box stores are going to be charged more than residences, which don't generate as much traffic.
The fee, approved last month, has inflamed passions in Mission, where residents and business owners have complained that it would hurt fixed-income residents and suffocate economic growth.
City officials say it's a fairer way to charge for road work because it gets at properties that currently do not pay property taxes to the city.
Homeowners are expected to pay roughly $72 a year while businesses are expected to pay much more. How much more, has been a hot issue in Mission since the fee was approved.
The city is revising initial estimates of how much some businesses will pay after learning more about how the property is used, its total square footage and whether an entire building is used at all.
For instance, initial numbers showed that a single property on Johnson Drive that houses several businesses could pay $3,558 a year. The city says that average fee will end up closer to about $1,380 with tenants possibly sharing even a smaller amount.
The amount for a Target store is expected to fall from an initial projection of $64,750 to something closer to $46,000, officials said. Drive-through restaurants could end up paying $10,000 less each year than originally estimated.
Churches will average about $1,154, down from the initial estimate of about $1,981.
The fee is subject to an appeal, first to the city administrator and then to the transportation utility appeals board. The board will include a City Council member, a city planning commissioner and city staff member.
Mission Mayor Laura McConwell held a forum Tuesday night to answer questions from the community about the fee, which has been labeled a "driveway tax" by broadcast media. Between 30 and 40 residents and business owners attended.
Some residents complained that the fee was unfair and would stifle business. Some residents said the fee would either drive businesses out of Mission or prevent new ones from moving into the city.
Some residents urged the city to put a half-cent sales tax increase on the ballot so the new transportation fee wouldn't be needed.
City officials said the transportation fee could be reduced if voters renew a quarter cent sales tax that's expected to expire next year.
Beverly O'Donnell, owner of Mission Bowl, said a group of property owners is considering litigation to stop the fee. O'Donnell said she doesn't think the city was open about the fee with the community.
"I am willing to pay for anything that needs to be done if it's done correctly. I don't believe this was done correctly," O'Donnell said. "I think its was underhandedly done."
McConwell has pointed out that the city did hold a several meetings with the public on the fee and promoted it in newsletters that went out to the public.
Some business owners have expressed support for the fee, including Richard McCoy, who said he opposed it until he had a chance to learn more.
McCoy said the fee is fairer since it will require some properties that don't pay taxes to contribute to road improvements.
"If they raise my property tax, it's going to cost me more money" than the fee, McCoy said.