JUNE 9, 1997

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School District asks for development impact fees


Kim Wright and Gina Johnson, students in Mrs. Brenden's third grade Canyon Creek Elementary class, struggle at pull-ups on play equipment as the Northshore School District searches for funds to pay for capital expenses. The district is asking Woodinville, Bothell, and Snohomish County to adopt school impact fees, which collect $2,400 per single-family unit in King County. Behind Kim and Gina, Chestnut Highlands, a 56-unit single-family development, is nearing completion.
Photo by Andrew Walgamott/Northwest News.

development impact fees by Andrew Walgamott
   Developers may be digging out a few more shekels to build homes and apartments in Woodinville and Bothell. Both cities are considering collecting school impact fees for the Northshore School District when developers apply to build single- and multi-family housing. Woodinville's City Council is nearing a decision on impact fees while Bothell city staff is still studying the issue.
   Approved through the Growth Management Act (GMA), the impact fee would replace the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) fee Woodinville charges on new housing, Stephanie Cleveland, Woodinville city project planner, explained. According to Woodinville city documents, imposition of the impact fee would lead to better permit processing, would cost less staff time to administer, and set standard fees. Currently the SEPA fee is subject to negotiation between the developer and the school district and varies by the development.
   King County has already enacted school impact fees in unincorporated areas. According to a document from Preston, Gates & Ellis, attorneys for the Northshore School District, King County currently collects more than $2,400 per single-family housing unit and nearly $1,400 per multi-family housing unit.
   The school district says they need the money to pay for the cost of capital improvements to schools as a result of population growth. The district estimates that the cost to the schools to serve each single-family home exceeds $8,500. Fees would only be levied on new developments and would help pay for district improvements including site acquisition, classroom expansions, new school construction, and other capital expenses, according to Preston, Gates, & Ellis.

   The district is allowed to collect impact fees under the GMA which allows counties and cities to impose fees to pay for portions of the costs of schools, roads, parks, and fire protection facilities. The cities of Bellevue and Issaquah and King, Skagit, and Kitsap Counties have adopted the fees.
   Woodinville City Councilmember Barbara Solberg expressed hesitation at adopting the fee during last week's council session. She said there was a multiplier effect to okaying one fee. "It never stops. Once taxes start, it never stops," Solberg said. She also wondered what it would do to the price of housing.
   Councilmember Lucy DeYoung said Woodinville should stop with school impact fees. "Other than schools, I think impact fees are detrimental to the cost of housing."
   Exemptions may be permitted for senior housing. If Woodinville's impact fee is approved, half of the fee would be collected at the time of final plat approval and half when building permits were issued.

Building boom
   The demand for housing in Woodinville and Bothell remains strong. According to Bothell Building Services Coordinator Mike DeLack, Bothell granted 88 single-family dwelling unit permits and 696 multi-family dwelling units in 1996. He said that there were more than 1,000 multi-family dwelling units proposed so far this year.
   East of Canyon Park, Chestnut Highlands, a 56-unit single-family development, is nearing completion. Nearby Canyon Creek Elementary is bracing for the influx of students.
   Principal Ann Panush said there were currently 472 students enrolled at Cottage Creek, down from 600 students several years ago. Panush said that high-density housing had an effect on schools, and that asking developers to put in sidewalks, fencing, and lighting for students wasn't enough.
   "Putting in sidewalks, lights, and fencing does not begin to take care of the impact of high density housing developments," Panush said.
   According to Preston, Gates & Ellis, the difference in fees by household reflects the higher number of school-age children that come from single-family housing compared to multi-family housing. They say that impact fees could be adjusted over time if the population matures or if student generation rate increases.
   Woodinville will be discussing impact fees at their June 16 meeting, while the issue probably won't come before the Bothell council until this fall, according to city attorney Greg Rubstello.