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September 11, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Seattle City Council may consider growth impact fees for builders

Eighty cities across the state charge growth impact fees when developers build new projects that put additional demand on public roads, schools, parks and fire departments.

Bellevue, Shoreline and Federal Way are among them, but Seattle is not.

It could become No. 81, however.

People in Seattle government have previously discussed impact fees, which require developers to help pay for capital projects needed to address growth.

But City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen went a step further Wednesday at a special transportation committee meeting.

Rasmussen, who chairs the committee, had a number of experts make the case for impact fees and asked his council colleagues to explore the possibility of legislation.

“Seattle is the fastest-growing city in the United States,” he said. “That’s a good thing because it brings more jobs to Seattle and more prosperity to Seattle. But with that, it’s also brought a great deal of congestion to our roads.”

The city is “struggling to maintain, let alone improve,” its transportation system, he said.

“We have to try to find creative new ways to pay for these needs, and what I hear from the community is, ‘Well, let the developers pay,’ ” Rasmussen added.

The council may begin exploring a bill soon but a vote in the next several months is unlikely, he said.

The fees under consideration are made possible by the Washington State Growth Management Act, which the legislature approved in 1990 to address runaway growth, much of it in the suburbs.

The payments must be proportional to the impact of new projects on cities. For example, road impact fees may be calculated from the number of peak vehicle trips added. Bellevue currently collects $3,000 per peak trip.

Under current law, the fees can’t be used for public transit like buses and light-rail.

Randy Young of Henderson, Young & Company, a consultant who has worked on impact fees elsewhere, said they reduce the tax burden on existing residents and businesses while not stopping development.

Builders pass the fees on to the people and companies who buy and rent their projects, Young said.

He was a hit with neighborhood and public school activists who spoke in favor of impact fees Wednesday, arguing developers should do more to help Seattle grow.

But there will be opposition. Roger Valdez, director of Smart Growth Seattle, which is sponsored by and which lobbies for developers, told the council that builders pay enough already.

Comments | More in General news, Government | Topics: impact fees, real estate, Seattle City Council


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