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City proposes doubling traffic impact fees

  • Written by Don Mann
About two dozen Woodinville property owners — some residential and some commercial — filled the Evergreen Room at the Carol Edwards Center last Tuesday at a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored briefing by Public Works Director Tom Hansen on the city’s proposed Ordinance No. 527 related to traffic impact fees on new development.

Hansen made no bones about it: The city, in order to pay for traffic projects, intends to double the mitigation fees, based on a recommendation by city staff — and a convoluted mathematical formula. The public, he said and even welcomed, has a chance to voice its opinion on the matter at a public hearing during the June 19 city council meeting. The public works director, a straight shooter, broke it down: You want less traffic in town? That requires building some projects and we don’t have the money so be prepared to pay a higher fee. You want no fee increase? Then be prepared to accept even more traffic congestion. It was that simple; a double bind.

Hansen went on to give an overview on the proposed revisions to the current code, beginning with how traffic is measured. Right now it’s measured by how many “trips” are generated during afternoon peak hours, and Hansen noted that the highest traffic volumes occur on NE 175th Street at noon during the lunch hour. Quantifying that can be problematic, he said, because some citizens say they don’t operate their vehicle at that time and therefore should be exempt. Staff is now recommending going to an average daily traffic (ADT) model, which measures traffic all day long and eliminates what he called “gamesmanship.”

Under current code, new development is subject to a traffic impact fee when it involves construction of new single family residential buildings, new multi-family residential buildings, new commercial or industrial buildings and “all persons receiving building permits.”

Staff is proposing to add to that list expansion of any non-residential building, any development permit which includes expansion of a residential building that increases the number of dwelling units, and any use change in existing buildings on a lot that will require new parking stalls to be constructed.

Under current code, a traffic impact fee exemption exists for the remodel or expansion of a single family residence and the remodel or expansion of a multi-family residence that does not increase the number of dwelling units, as well as affordable housing and accessory dwelling units.

Staff is recommending removing the exemption for affordable housing, though maintaining the exemption if it does not expand the footprint or add floor area; does not require additional parking stalls to be constructed; and is a tenant improvement/remodel of an existing building.

Currently a new single family residence built in Woodinville would pay about $2,000 in traffic impact fees. Doubling that — if council signs off on it — would place the city “right about average” among a dozen surrounding cities, Hansen said.

Further, the city wants to consolidate the four existing mitigation areas into one, thereby taking traffic impact fees from the commercial areas and using them for road improvements in residential areas.

Under current code, mitigation fees are applied in the areas from which they are generated. Some business and property owners — who may not live in town or within city limits — were not well-pleased

with that idea.Council chambers may be crowded on June 19, which will mean the city hall parking lot will be crowded, which will spill over to 133rd Ave. NE, which will complicate NE 175th Street … and so it goes.

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