City may lower impact fees for small business

Published on Wed, May 11, 2011 by Tara Nelson

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New small businesses in Blaine may not have to pay for street frontage improvements if an amendment to the city’s building regulations is approved by the city council.

In their last regular meeting on Thursday, April 28, Blaine planning commission members gave their nod of approval to proposed revisions to the city’s building design standards and mitigation process that would allow new businesses under 3,500-square feet to waive street improvement fees.

In exchange, those businesses would be required to sign an agreement saying they will not protest local improvement district levies (LIDs) in the future. Such levies can be voted down with a 60 percent vote.

Blaine planning director Michael Jones said the amendments were suggested as a follow-up to a revision of the city’s subdivision design standards and were intended to remove entry barriers to new businesses moving here. He added that such mitigations have been a significant burden on small development projects where people haven’t budgeted for those fees.

“The larger developments generally expect to pay for those sort of things but when you’re talking about a coffee shop, they probably didn’t even think about it,” Jones said. “And in some cases, the actual cost might be equal or greater to the cost of the building. We wanted to make the rules so they wouldn’t be cost prohibitive for small new projects to break ground and open businesses.”

Jones, however, warned commissioners that those improvements will still need to be made at some point in the future.
“By waiving these requirements, you shift part of the burden of growth onto the citizens,” he said. “At some point, someone will have to pay for the infrastructure and road improvements that need to be made.

“It’s a philosophical thing. When you don’t pay for the things up front, it becomes a public expense and everyone shares the cost. If the fees are too high, it may stop businesses from developing and the public doesn’t have to pay but you also have to ask yourself who wins in that situation. If the person's decision is to not open their business, they didn’t open a business and we didn’t get any street improvements.”

Jones said the amendments will go before Blaine City Council within the next few weeks.

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