John T. (Til) Hazel Jr., a prominent Northern Virginia developer, calls them "unfair and arbitrary." Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert calls them necessary evils.

As development intensifies in the Washington area, local residents -- who fear their communities are overburdened by the growing number of people, cars and buildings -- are forcing city officials to levy higher fees, known as impact fees or exactions, on developers to pay for better roads, day care centers, parks and other publicly used facilities.

Meeting last week at a seminar sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, several of Washington's top developers, attorneys and government officials went head-to-head over the growing popularity of impact fees, linkage programs and vested rights -- technical terms for the methods by which developers and governments give and take when negotiating plans on a new project.

"These things -- exactions or whatever you want to call them -- are nothing more than creatures of prosperity," Hazel said. Hazel's major projects include Burke Center and Fair Lakes in Fairfax County. His company, Hazel/Peterson Cos., constructed an exit ramp off Interstate 66 to help ease traffic in the Fair Lakes area and provide better access to his development. "You have to keep in mind that exactions are ad hoc efforts to impact a new tax on a very narrow sector of the community," he said.

Throughout the discussion, developers complained that fees for additional housing, roads, community centers or other structures conceived as "publicly used" facilities are a form of taxation. At the same time, government officials said the fees are the only way to guarantee that the new projects will fit into a community without causing more harm than good.

Lambert, who in his role as county executive, has worked closely on negotiations with Hazel on several projects, disagreed with Hazel and other developers.

"If we lived in a perfect world, then there would be no need for any kind of impact fee for new development," he said. "I don't know of any proffers {amenities offered during the approval process} that haven't brought benefits to the development community and the public."

James T. Lewis, chairman and president of James T. Lewis Enterprises Ltd., said he believes in working closely with community and government officials from the very beginning of the planning process. Lewis' company is developing the PortAmerica project in Prince George's County just south of the Capital Beltway and the JTL Tycon Towers project at Tysons Corner. Among the amenities Lewis' company is including in the PortAmerica project are a community center, a walkway along the Potomac River, hiker/biker trails and three key ramps off the major roadways near the project.

But Lewis said, "The amenities in PortAmerica are amenities we wanted in our project anyway." Lewis said his company uses two key standards in evaluating its projects: whether the amenities increase the value of the property, and whether they burden the area more than they help relieve a particular problem.

Ellen V. Sigal, chief executive officer of Sigal/Zuckerman, said any fees or trade-offs between developers and government officials should be optional.

"I don't think a $3, $4 or $5 fee is going to stop development," she said. "But you can't expect the development community to pay for all the housing and other amenities to make a community successful. ... The better way to go is to have optional linkage fees. It's fairer, better and easier to sell."

Guiseppe Cecchi, president of International Developers Inc., which is developing the Techworld project in the District, said he was "extremely frustrated" with how certain zoning requirements were changed between the time a project is proposed and when it is finally completed.

Cecchi complained that a developer can no longer depend on zoning in a given area to remain the same. "In the good old days," he said, "a developer didn't have to worry about down-zoning or losing our vested rights. All the stability is gone."

Edmund B. Cronin Jr., chairman of Smithy Braedon, called for a regional planning authority that would carefully review zoning requirements throughout the area so that a planning process could take place that would eventually benefit the developer and the government.

"This area has been master planned and rezoned more than any place in the country," Cronin said. "But the problem is, no one ever sticks to the plans."

John G. Milliken, vice chairman of the Arlington County Board, said the best way for a city government and developer to avoid conflict is to involve as many people affected by the planning process as possible. "An open a participatory process is best, even though it sometimes is a pain in the neck," he said. "But the final results, once achieved, usually hold."