April 25, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 1

Council seeks impact fee bill veto

Cheney’s City Council unanimously agreed to sign a letter from the Association of Washington Cities asking Gov. Jay Inslee to veto a bill that would change how local governments collect development impact fees – fees necessary in many cases to help jurisdictions keep pace with growth generated by the very development on which those fees are assessed.

Engrossed Substitute House Bill (ESHB) 1652 would mandate all local governments, big and small, rural and urban, defer collection of impact fees required under the Growth Management Act until after final sale or closing of a house or when certificates of occupancy are issued. According to council resolution language, the move could delay payment of fees for up to 18 months, a situation Cheney has been in before.

Paul Simmons, parks and recreation director, told the council that the bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature, is essentially what Cheney faced prior to 2009 where developers paid late, if at all, forcing collection methods that included the courts.

In 2009 the law was changed to allow cities to collect impact fees up front at the time the building application is filed.

“Since that’s happened we’ve had about a 100 percent success rate in collecting our parks impact fees,” Simmons said.

Finance Director Cindy Niemeier told the council that in 2009 when the law was changed the city had five accounts they were trying to collect impact fees on, totaling around $30,000.

Councilwoman Teresa Overhauser questioned whether the new legislation would constitute an illegal gifting of funds on the city’s part. City attorney Stanley Schwartz said he believed it didn’t, but would allow developers to “float” their fee money, earning interest in the meantime, and that homebuyers would likely pick up the fee tab.

“There’s no question it’s much cleaner on the front end at the time of building application,” he said.

ESHB 1652 passed the House 83-11 and the Senate 34-14. Sixth District representatives Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy along with Sen. Michael Baumgartner voted in favor of the bill, as did 9th District representatives Susan Fagan and Joe Schmick along with Sen. Mark Schoesler.

In other business the council approved a $62,525 contract with Shamrock Paving to remove crosswalk paver bricks on First Street downtown between D and G streets. The bricks were installed as part of a downtown beautification project over 10 years ago, and have since sunk in places as First Street/SR 904 has rutted.

The council also approved a $13,800 contract with Esvelt Environmental Engineering to develop a one-year monitoring plan, updating the wastewater treatment plant’s hydro-geologic study as required by the Department of Ecology, which must approve the plan. Council also approved a $36,200 appropriation, plus 10 percent for contingencies, to contract with Mountain Utilities to do secondary conduit boring in the Caldwell Addition south of Salnave and west of Presley Drive. The work is part of the Light Department’s project to replace failing direct buried secondary underground services.

The council also awarded a plaque of recognition to Brian Jennings, community development director, in appreciation for his service. Jennings is leaving next week to take a position with Community Frameworks.

Finally, Police Chief John Hensley awarded the Police Department’s first Dispatcher of the Year award to dispatcher Thomas Hall. Hensley said dispatchers have to possess many qualities in order for them to perform their work.

“This is not hyperbole, but in my 30 years of law enforcement I’ve found hiring quality dispatchers is one of the most difficult thing you come across,” Hensley said.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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