Public hearing scheduled for park impact fees

Published on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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City officials are discussing reinstating park impact fees, and Blaine residents will get a chance to share their thoughts on the issue at a public hearing.

The public hearing will take place at the Blaine Planning Commission meeting starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 28, at Blaine city hall. After the hearing, planning commissioners will discuss two separate ways of reinstating park impact fees that could lessen the burden on developers.

City council members eliminated park impact fees in 2009 in an effort to spur development in the downtown area. At the time, city officials estimated the city could lose $1.5 million over the next 20 years, or $75,000 annually without the impact fees.

With the impact fees in place, residential developers were charged $1,000 per home or duplex for new housing developments. The fees were meant to pay for additional park areas needed as use of the city’s existing parks increased through population growth.

As development has stalled since 2009, city officials are now looking for ways to bring more revenue into city coffers. City council members discussed reinstating park impact fees earlier this year, and city planning staff have come up with two ways to reinstate the fees while keeping the downtown core attractive to developers: lessening park impact fees for developers seeking substantial residential development in the downtown area and creating a system that would charge different park impact fees for residential developments in different parts of the city.

Blaine community development director Michael Jones said planning commissioners could recommend one or both of these options to Blaine City Council or reject both and recommend instead reinstating park impact fees as they were two years ago.

“There are any number of different options,” Jones said.

The first option would impose lower impact fees for downtown housing projects which could include adding a dozen or so condominiums above an existing business, Jones explained. The goal is to encourage more people to live downtown, which would add life and vibrancy and make visitors want to stay longer.

“We can do all the wonderful improvements we want, but if we don’t actually have people [downtown], that’s inadequate,” Jones said.

The second option would charge different park impact fee amounts for different parts of the city, depending on how many parks already existed. For example, impact fees for residential development could be higher in east Blaine than in downtown because central Blaine already has a number of parks while east Blaine does not.

If planning commissioners agree on any method of reinstating park impact fees, the change will need city council approval. Park impact fees were not charged on commercial development.