New taxing district on agenda tonight for Port Angeles City Council

New taxing district on agenda tonight for Port Angeles City Council

PORT ANGELES — Residents attending tonight’s Port Angeles City Council meeting will be able to sound off on creating a new taxing district for street and alley repairs fueled by a sales tax increase that would be imposed Jan. 1, 2018.

The Transportation Benefit District, the board of which would be City Council members, would seek voters’ approval in the Aug. 1 election for a 0.2 percent sales tax increase — 2 cents added to every $10 spent, Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd said.

It would be added to the city’s existing 8.4 percent retail sales tax.

The first of two hearings on setting up a Transportation Benefit District will be held during the regular meeting that begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St., with a second hearing scheduled for the April 4 regular meeting.

In a second agenda item tonight following the hearing on the transportation district, council members will consider approving four municipal code amendments to land-use regulations.

But they have delayed considering changes in zoning that might have affected human services agencies such as Serenity House of Clallam County and had raised concerns for the Shelter Providers Network of Clallam County, fearful that agencies such as them would be banned from commercial areas.

Council members are expected to approve the taxing district in anticipation of asking voters to approve the sale tax increase in the Aug. 1 election, Kidd said.

Craig Fulton, public works and utilities director, told City Council members Dec. 13 that general fund revenues and budget reserves can no longer keep up with street maintenance needs.

He said Monday the tax would generate $600,000 to $700,000 annually, and while it would not accumulate enough for road repair projects until 2019, increasing the tax was preferable to doing nothing.

He has estimated that it would cost the city $120 million to improve city street conditions from poor to good, and said an additional $1 million is needed annually for chipsealing to stop city streets and alleys from degrading further.

Under Fulton’s timeline, the City Council would adopt a resolution establishing the Aug. 1 sales-tax ballot measure at its April 18 meeting.

Kidd said she “absolutely” favors the sales-tax increase.

“It’s a very small, incremental increase,” she said.

“We have to start taking the burden off the shoulders of the homeowners and our utility tax bills.

“We need to spread it out more fairly to the 3 million to 4 million visitors who visit the national park.

“They will be using the roads and paying for the roads.”

Kidd said Sequim has made its transportation benefit district work.

“I don’t like increasing taxes anytime, anyway, but sometimes you have to look and realize streets are in disrepair,” she said.

Kidd said Monday that most of the land-use-code changes that will be considered tonight are more clarifying than substantive.

“It’s just going through and updating and clarifying more than administrative,” she said, adding the council could approve the amendments tonight after the hearing.

The new regulations support higher densities in the city limits and encourage construction of more town homes and apartments, Planning Manager Allyson Brekke said Monday.

The Shelter Providers Network was concerned that the modifications included restrictions on pre-existing, non-conforming uses that would have restricted social services offices and facilities from expanding or changing in the city’s commercial core.

According to a March 16 press release, 31 citizens who attended a March 15 Shelter Providers’ meeting were “alarmed” at the proposed code sections.

Doc Robinson, executive director of Serenity House of Clallam County, said Monday the changes had amounted to “banning of human services” facilities from downtown to the city’s eastern border.

It’s wrong to assume that “you have to push human services out to stimulate growth,” Robinson said.

Brekke said city staff is “really going back to the drawing board” on code changes that would affect human services agencies.

“They asked us to be more engaged and allow for us to have some meetings where they are able to share their expertise,” she said.

Once the City Council approves the amendments up for discussion tonight, city staff will turn their attention to updating the comprehensive land-use plan, Brekke added.

After that, the development code as it relates to social services agencies will be addressed, she said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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