The cost of growth: Sequim officials consider change in developer fees

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– City officials are trying to determine how much to charge developers of new homes and businesses to offset the additional traffic caused by the city’s growth.

Don Samdahl, an engineer with the consulting firm Fehr & Peers, recommended last week that the city of Sequim reduce the rate at which it charges those impact fees, instituted by the council in 2010.

Because of a reduced growth projection over the next 30 years, Samdahl advised the city to cut transportation impact fees from the current average of $2,578 to $2,244, a reduction of 13 percent.

He figured the city would have an additional 6,159 car trips of an average of 1.8 miles every day in the next 30 years.

A new transportation master plan including $19.8 million in projects designed to keep that future traffic flowing was approved last month.

The project list was reduced from $36.6 million in the 2010 plan.

Impacts from the new traffic are expected to account for $13,822,000 of that. That cost was apportioned to the new trips, based on their expected individual impact.

For a single-family residence, the fee would be $2,491, down from the current $2,893.

Denser development is charged less because, Samdahl said, it typically produces less traffic.

Commercial developments would be charged an average of $3.85 per square foot.

City Engineer David Garlington said the recommended fees would put the city near the middle of what other jurisdictions in the state charge.

Those fees, though, are exempted in the city’s downtown core.

Some members of the council questioned the fairness of charging developers in some neighborhoods but not others.

“I think all new development should pay pretty much the same calculated impact fees,” Councilman Ted Miller said after Samdahl presented the new fee schedule proposal to the council.

City officials said the comprehensive plan calls for different rules to encourage denser development downtown.

“Downtown is different than other places,” Public Works Director Paul Haines said.

“There are fewer miles driven when you visit a downtown than if you’re visiting a Big Box” store.

Downtown is considered a large shopping center, Haines said, since shoppers can park and walk from store to store.

“This is where the comprehensive plan says we want to encourage in-fill and we want to encourage increased density,” Garlington said.

Haines added many businesses in the defined downtown area are in converted houses, which makes it difficult to determine what the fees should be.

“It’s one big shopping center. To figure different rates for each use is just going to create anxiety,” Haines said.

The city’s transportation impact fee came under fire earlier this year, after the Linda Engeseth, owner of Crumb Grabbers bakery, said she had to close before 4 p.m. to avoid a fee of $17,000 for putting her bakery in a former house at the corner of Cedar Street and Fifth Avenue.

The fee was determined by using data from a professional engineering manual for fast-food restaurants.

The city later dropped the fee requirement after officials determined the business did not generate the traffic of a fast-food restaurant.

The recommended fee schedule will go to the city’s planning commission next month, Garlington said.

The planning commission will consider a recommendation for a new fee schedule to the council.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 18. 2013 6:17PM
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