Sequim cuts some fees imposed on builders

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– The City Council has approved a reduction in the transportation impact fees it charges builders of new homes and businesses to offset their increased impacts to the transportation grid.

The council approved the fees unanimously Monday night.

The reduction, explained City Engineer David Garlington, was prompted by a cutback in the list of projects designed to increase traffic capacity within the city.

That list dropped from $17.2 million worth of projects in 2010 — when the fees initially were instituted — to $13.8 million now.

Split among the 6,160 new trips predicted by the city’s consulting firm Fehr & Peers, that equates to an average fee of $2,491 charged for building a new single-family home, a reduction from the current $2,893.

Commercial buildings are charged by the square foot, with separate rates for downtown buildings.

Garlington said the downtown core is considered a sort of shopping mall, where people park their cars and walk from store to store, which lessens new buildings’ traffic impacts.

Councilman Ted Miller found it “somewhat disappointing” that the fees were reduced.

“I feel the public works department needs all the money it can get for roads,” Miller said.

The move brought praise, and a request to reduce more fees, from the North Peninsula Building Association.

Larry Coppola, executive officer of the building association, told the council the city’s various fees add tens of thousands of dollars to up-front construction costs, which makes it harder to get construction loans and ultimately reduces construction in the city.

“Many of our members won’t even consider building in Sequim,” Coppola said.

Greg McCarry, a developer and vice president on the building association executive committee, told the council its policies have helped make new-home construction 30 percent more expensive than buying an existing home.

“Until that spread narrows, then builders won’t be able to build new homes,” McCarry said.

Coppola, former mayor of Port Orchard, said construction is cheaper in unincorporated Clallam County than in Sequim.

Lack of construction hits the city’s coffers, he said.

“No construction means no sales tax revenue,” he said, adding that property taxes increase with new homes.

Mayor Ken Hays, however, disputed the elevated cost between building a new home in the city versus the county.

“I think it’s a little unfair to say we’re more expensive than other places,” Hays said.

An architect in his day job, Hays said clients of his have had to charge about $30,000 to build homes in the county, with new wells and septic systems and county permits hiking construction prices.

Building in the city, with that infrastructure already in place, is cheaper than building in the county, he said.

“Sequim is actually a fairly good deal, if you can accept the fact that it’s just bloody expensive to build anywhere you go,” Hays said.

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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: September 24. 2013 6:03PM
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