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Council does some business

  • Written by Don Mann
It took two group voting attempts to get it done, but the Woodinville City Council passed first reading of Ordinance No. 527 to amend Traffic Impact Fees (TIF) at its meeting last Tuesday.

Along the way, the council selected some policy options on the item: It selected the higher of two proposed fees, adopted a five year phase-in payment schedule for new development, and determined there would be no deferral of payment — as was hoped by some in the business community.

Woodinville Public Works Director Tom Hansen began the discussion with some background: The council had been considering the matter for a year.

On June 19, council held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance and closed it, asking staff to prepare options for a reduced fee, a phased-in fee, and a deferred payment of the fee.The initial fee was proposed at $440 per Average Daily Trip (ADT) — a convoluted calculation understood most by public works directors.

According to Hansen, the figure is based upon the $78 million of capital improvements needed to accommodate increased traffic generated by new development in Woodinville over the next 10 years.

An alternative amount of $310 per ADT was also proposed, though TIF revenues with that number, as Hansen pointed out, would be nearly a million dollars less in city coffers over a five year period.

The five year phase-in would provide adequate notice to any potential developer, adequate time — according to Hansen — “for the economy to recover,” and keep the city’s fees more competitive than neighboring cities.

At its June 19 meeting the issue was raised whether or not to allow a deferral of payment until a home/development was actually occupied or sold.

Some said that mandatory initial payment was stifling to the purchasers, whoever they might be.

According to Hansen, allowing deferrals creates additional city administrative costs. He recommended strongly that deferrals not be allowed.

And thus they were not.

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders asked staff point blank how many TIFs were paid in the last year.

City Manager Richard Leahy, perhaps sparing Hansen, responded.

“Not that many,” and he said it with an ironic chuckle.“There hasn’t been a whole lot of development in town.”

Interjected Hansen: “Somewhere between 10 and 20.”

Then Mayor Bernie Talmas called for a vote, and the administrator broke it down into three parts: the fee, the phase-in and the deferral.

First round of votes on the fee produced no plurality — meaning not four concurred.

Then they did it again. Four agreed to the $440 charge.

Summarily the council agreed to the phase-in and no deferrals to produce the ordinance, by a 4-2 vote, with Councilmembers Les Rubstello and Scott Hageman opposed.

Said Rubstello: “I’m going to vote against it. The fee for restaurants will triple, and the fee for small retail will quadruple ... Restaurants and retail ... that’s what we want … It doesn’t roll much of a welcome mat out.”

There was a disconnection and the mayor took a different tack. “This ordinance will actually encourage small retail and restaurants because we’re eliminating any fees for them … They’re exempt if they move into an existing structure which is what development generally does.”

Later, Woodinville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Witt, who had gone to the council podium a time or two to speak on his constituents’ behalf and was indeed in the audience — was asked what it meant to him and members of the Chamber.

“It seems to us more reasonable to have gone with the lower range of increase … in this economy. To go the way they went … it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.”

It was suggested that this ordinance was aimed at developers. In fact, Councilmember Paulette Bauman said development should be paid by developers.

“Perhaps, though, that may be an oversimplification,” Witt said. “There’s a lotta local businesses considering expansion and this is a major factor for them … Small developments are vulnerable to the fees.”

He continued.“It’s disappointing that in this economy they’re talking about raising fees, but it is what it is.”

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