More money for more government: Bellingham OKs higher building impact fees
GOVERNMENT: Change is expected to bring in an extra $290,000.
New Bellingham developments will pay 50 percent more in impact fees for roads, sidewalks and other transportation projects, the City Council decided late Monday night.
The council also voted to have staff members bring back a proposal to raise the fee more in some established areas that have a shortage of facilities like sidewalks and bike lanes.
The increase, which passed after The Bellingham Herald's deadline, will raise the impact fee charged developers on an average single-family home from $605 to $910 (slightly more than 50 percent increase because of the way the fees are rounded off). Retail and industrial rates are higher. The increase would bring in about $290,000 more, based on current development trends.
The fees vary by area depending on transportation projects planned for an area in the next six years and on projects completed in the previous six years.
Staffers polled 29 other Washington and Oregon cities and found their transportation-impact fees for a single-family home averaged $1,595.
The city's fee system, with or without the increase, encourages infilling because areas with more transportation projects tend to be less established, said Clark Williams, the city's transportation manager.
Under the increase, the fee would range from $210 downtown to $4,020 in the Samish Hill area. The Samish Hill fee is particularly high because of the Samish Way-Interstate 5 overpass project, which will drop off the fee in two years, Williams said.
The increase will bring the average share of project costs that fees cover from 10.13 percent to 18 percent, although the costs and money collected vary greatly from year to year based on transportation projects and development activity, Williams said.
Officials from the Whatcom County Building Industry Association have said the increase will add to home costs. Council member Grant Deger was the only one to oppose the increase. Louise Bjornson was absent.
Council member Barbara Ryan said she thought fees were still too low, even with the increases. In Edgemoor, new homes worth more than $1 million will pay just $225 each under the increase, Ryan said. "There's something not quite right about that."
In reaction, Public Works Director Dick McKinley said he could bring back a separate proposal to add fees in established areas like Edgemoor for any needed facilities. The council voted 4-2, with Deger and Bob Ryan opposed, to have staffers do this.
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