Reviewing systems development charges: always a good idea.

Following a SDCs bill that equated to 35 percent of the total cost of the recent McDonald’s Restaurant remodel, the City of Prineville last week determined its calculating system for remodeling existing businesses needed tweaked.

City Administrator Steve Forrester explained it well, noting that had the McDonald’s owner built a new restaurant from scratch, the SDCs would have totaled 3 percent of the cost of the project.

Having a more affordable SDCs program for remodeling older buildings could go a long ways in modernizating old businesses, either by its current owner or someone who might buy it with a remodel in mind.

Sure, SDCs are a bane of existence for developers, and an easy target for people who might challenge municipalities for standing in their own way when it comes to development.

But SDCs are a viable, necessary component in preparation and planning for a community’s future needs. New development will make the community grow (a good thing) but such development and growth will also burden the community’s infrastructure in the future. Having the developer help pay for the future needs of a community (theoretically brought on, at least partially, by their development) makes sense.

The balancing point on SDCs, really, is you want them high enough to address future needs, yet not be too high that they prohibit development. Obviously, that development is a driving force of a community, its lifeblood in a myriad of ways, from beautification and modernization to potentially providing more jobs.

SDCs are also a way communities compete for development. It’s quite possible that a major retailer, for example, could be weighing building in either Prineville or Madras. SDCs, the amounts and the flexibility in how they’re allocated and paid, could make the difference in which town was selected.

Obviously, SDCs would only be a small element in the decision-making process, but an element nonetheless. Plus, the city is generally looking at just changing their fee structure for remodels and existing businesses. We don’t want to overstate any potential for widescale SDC reformation.

But keeping SDCs in the forefront of thought, with a spirit of flexibility and pragmatism, is something for which the city should be applauded.

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