AUSTIN (KXAN) — More fees may be on the way for developers in Austin, and some aren’t happy about it.

City council members are considering an ordinance that would make commercial developers dedicate land for parks or pay a fee.

If passed, the parks department estimates it could bring in $4 million to its budget, but opponents said it’ll impact affordability for Austinites.

On a hot Tuesday evening, four women shake out sheets of plastic and spread out bags of clothes and accessories at Pease Park.

“We’re just doing a photoshoot for the store that we work for and just getting creative and having fun,” explained Hillary Tatone.

The women work for MOSS Designer Consignment on South Lamar.

“We work for a woman-owned-and-run business that is small. We don’t have like a huge budget. And I think it’s super important for people to be able to utilize parks the way they want to use them,” said coworker Rachel Fischer.

The women said they come to city parks often.

“I’ve used them really often ever since I started doing photography, and it’s always a really great spot for shoots and stuff,” said Kaity Cox.

In a presentation for city council set for Thursday, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) said as more companies set up shop in Austin, more people are using the city’s parks.

That’s why it wants commercial developers to start setting aside land for parks or pay a fee instead.

“Any additional fees associated with a development gets passed on to the consumer,” said Kevin Burns, founder and CEO of Urbanspace Real Estate + Interiors.

In its presentation, PARD gives one example of a 325,000-square-foot office building with about a thousand employees. The land owed for that would be 1.12 acres or a $459,515 fee. That’s on top of a $41,925 development fee.

PARD noted open spaces would qualify, even if they are private property.

“Whether that’s, you know, somebody — a mom and pop shop or a multinational company, right? It also pertains to retail spaces. So, you know, restaurants will have to pay a little bit more rent,” explained Burns.

Burns, whose company also does development, said those costs eventually get passed down to shoppers and diners.

Residential developers already have a parkland requirement, and PARD said it’s funded more than 76 projects and added more than 125 acres of new parkland to the city since 2018.

PARD staff said they use code criteria to determine if requirements will be met by land or fee. They said only about 10% of residential developments dedicate land, the rest pay full fees.

Burns and other opponents point to the fact the residential parkland fees have increased and already impacted housing affordability.

According to the city’s website, the proposed fees for all types of residential housing are set to more than double next year.

“The Real Estate Council of Austin has repeatedly voiced our concern that Austin City Council is allowing for massive fee increases and brand-new fees during an affordability crisis,” wrote Chris Randazzo, RECA Board Chair, in an email to KXAN.

He said the residential parkland fee already increased last year, resulting in an increase in new apartment rents by $10-$15 per month.

“That fee increase has already halted the development of hundreds, if not thousands, of badly-needed residences in Austin. It is unconscionable that new fees and expensive policies, like the commercial parkland fee, are even being considered without a full analysis of their impact on new development and the cost they will bring to those struggling to get by in Austin. Every fee the city levies needs to be weighed against the impact it has on affordability and on Austinites,” Randazzo said.

“It is unconscionable that new fees and expensive policies, like the commercial parkland fee, are even being considered without a full analysis of their impact on new development and the cost they will bring to those struggling to get by in Austin.

Chris Randazzo, Real Estate Council of Austin Board Chair

“The root cause of our biggest issue in Austin, Texas is the affordability aspect of it,” Burns said. “And when the city continues to put fee on top of fee on top of fee, it makes the housing more expensive.”

Burns said instead, the city should streamline the development process. He said a shorter timeline would result in a more affordable end product, and would get tenants on the tax roll sooner.

“So, that’s a great way to collect additional taxes for parklands. It’s also a great way to collect additional taxes for other social services. And, most important … it’s eating at the core root of the issue, which is supply in our housing market,” he said.

PARD said the parkland dedication ordinance would not apply to civic buildings like schools, hospitals or daycares.

City council is set to hold a public hearing on the item on Thursday.

On the city’s message board, the mayor said they plan to postpone any action until the budget hearings on Aug. 17.

If passed, the ordinance would go into effect next year.