After an exhaustive debate Monday over whether impact fees were an important tool to maintain quality of life for current residents, Blaine City Council postponed a vote on a proposal that would remove the fees until all members were present.
The proposal comes after council eliminated all water and sewer connection fees within city limits after Fairhaven developer Ken Imus and colleague Kathleen Hill threatened to pull out of Blaine altogether if the city did not make substantial revisions to development fees. Council members have justified the fee elimination as a way to spur development in the city.
Impact fees are typically used to fund projects that are detailed in the city’s capital facilities plan for traffic and park improvements. A developer of planned unit development, for example, would likely pay for intersection and road improvements near that project to ensure the increase in traffic would not jeopardize the safety or quality of life enjoyed by current residents. New residents would also be expected to use city parks and fees would be assessed to address that impact.
The four alternatives under consideration would remove or reduce impact fees for various areas in the city or altogether. Option one would eliminate impact fees citywide; option two would eliminate impact fees in the downtown commercial district; and option three would suspend impact fees city wide while a study is completed.
Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon made a motion to remove park and traffic impact fees for the downtown business district as well as three other areas zoned freeway commercial but the motion was defeated 4-2. Onyon said because those areas don’t accommodate residential development, the city would not lose much money. Onyon said park impact fees are only imposed on residential development.
Council members Scott Dodd and Jason Overstreet called the impact fees a “misnomer” and questioned if they were necessary at all.
“People want the kind of impacts that development will bring,” Dodd said.
Dodd also suggested taking money from the general fund to pay for things such as park improvements that would normally be paid for by the fees.
Council member Harry Robinson disagreed. He added that he would like to wait and see how developers respond to the removal of water and sewer connection fees before they removed more fees, especially since no formal plans have been submitted by Ken Imus.
“The developer we attempted to support has made no effort to provide us with any information as to what their plans are. They have not attended our meetings, nor have they submitted anything in writing,” he said. “Meanwhile, Trillium has done more to develop Blaine in the last 20 years than any other group of developers and they have provided us a written letter saying they oppose this.”
While a detailed analysis of the financial impact has not been completed, city staff estimate the city would lose approximately $1.5 million in forgone revenue from the elimination of park impact fees over the next 20 years, or about $75,000 annually.
The council is scheduled to make a final decision regarding impact fees at their next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, October 26 at city hall.