PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has approved two ordinances to lower some development costs for housing developers and property owners in an effort to address the lack of affordable housing.
Council members on Tuesday approved an ordinance that would lower the costs of connecting Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to city utilities by making revisions to the city code.
In May, City Council asked staff to identify the most costly aspects of ADU utility connections and to identify possible code revisions that could lower the costs while maintaining the quality of service and integrity of the utility.
City staff found that the most costly aspect was the work in building the connections to an ADU, which requires builders and property owners to get a right of way from the city.
Staff recommended that the city remove the current requirements in the city code for separate connections to the water and wastewater mains when a single connection can provide adequate service to both the ADU and primary residence without causing a significant impact on water and wastewater mains.
Previously, builders and property owners were charged $1,280 for a water connection, $2,260 each for water and sewer system development and $150 for a sewer permit.
Staff also recommended the removal of the requirements for monthly base rates for water meters serving the ADU and waste water service for detached ADUs.
These recommendations were brought to the Utility Advisory Committee where they were reviewed before being brought to the council, which voted unanimously in favor of the code changes.
“I think this is a really important step in the right direction,” said Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin.
”It allows a property owner who is installing an ADU to not have to cut into the city street in order to access the water connection on the city’s main or the sewer connection.
“Also through discussion, we realized that it was not fair to be charging base rates for these connections, because property owners were basically getting a separate bill,” he added.
One of the potential outcomes of removing these base rates is lowering housing/rental costs, making it more accessible for folks in need of housing.
“One of the things we are trying to solve by removing the base rates on ADUs is, we are hoping to get closer to housing actually being affordable,” Mayor Kate Dexter said.
”So not only is your rent potentially lower because its a small unit on someone else’s property but also your utilities might be slightly more affordable.”
The council also approved an ordinance to waive building permit fees for multiple types of high density housing until Sept. 1 2023.
Permit fees in Port Angeles are based on the value of the building, but not on the building type. For example, the permit fee for a building valued at $100,000 would cost $670.
Council members had previously directed city staff to draft an ordinance to suspend these fees for the development of ADUs, duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, cottage housing and other type of multifamily housing developments for families at or below 80 percent Area Median Income (AMI).
The Port Angeles Planning Commission however recommended the waiving of the fees on a case-by-case basis rather than the outright suspension, saying it could cause the Community and Economic Development department to lose over $23,000 in revenue.
Schromen-Wawrin said that the benefits of more housing development in the city would make up for the loss in revenue.
“This is a 13-month program because we understand that our staff would like to study the issue more before we come up with a longer-term solution,” Schromen-Wawrin said..
“Those studies tend to find somewhere between $16,000 and $40,000 per person experiencing homelessness, so if by building the additional housing here we help one person out of homelessness in Port Angeles, then we have actually saved money,” he added.
The ordinance details specifically that the property must maintain the AMI requirement over the course of five years after the expiration date of Sept. 1 2023. it also clarifies that the developments must be used for long-term residential use so that they cannot be repurposed for short-term/ vacation rental.
“This draft is staff’s attempt to fulfill the goals of the motion but does depart from the specific language of the motion in two places,” Housing Manager Holden Fleming said.
”Specifically, this ordinance calls for a fee waiver rather than a fee suspension and uses stronger language of “reserved for” rather than “available to” to help ensure that projects receiving this fee waiver would be utilized by families at or below 80 percent AMI.”
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.