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Commissioners discussing impact fees

Kitsap County commissioners were slated to take testimony Tuesday night at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds about a proposal to phase in their proposed impact fees for new construction in the county through 2007.

Impact fees are imposed on the construction of new homes and new businesses.

“Impact fees help pay for roads, schools and parks. We haven’t raised them for years,” Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen said Monday.

The fees are authorized through the Growth Management Act.

If the proposed impact fees were implemented, it would be the first such action in the county since the fees were first authorized in 1992.

The commissioners have suggested using 60 percent of the estimated costs to set the fees.

“If we charged 100 percent, (the total cost of fees) could in some cases edge up to as much as $8000. But we are talking about 60 percent of the 100 percent. I don’t think we should go (up) 100 percent,” Endresen said.

Endresen said because of the size of schools in her district, fees would be higher in Poulsbo than in South Kitsap or Bremerton.

She said the raised fees are necessary.

“The bottom line,” Endresen said, “is that for certain levels of service for schools, parks and roads, impact fees (are needed). Taxpayers would pay the other 40 percent (not covered by impact fee hikes).”

“There are actually two ordinances (proposed),” County Administrator Malcolm Fleming said. “One updates our current ordinance, housecleaning, and the second one proposes to increase the impact fees over a four-year phase-in.”

Fleming said the first ordinance would change requirements so that builders, who pay impact fees, would no longer pay the fees when picking up their building permits.

“They would pay the fees at the time there was a certificate of occupancy,” Fleming explained.

This proposal was included in attempt to mitigate the impact of the impact fees on builders.

Fleming said Monday he expected lots of comments, pro and con, at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Some people say the raised fees make housing more unaffordable. But there are those who say the new development is creating the need (the raised fees would address),” Fleming said.

“We feel like impact fees add an unfair burden to home buyers. (Fees) price some first-time home buyers out of the market and add more cost to the prices of new homes,” said Vivian Henderson, executive director of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners. “And impact fees don’t put the burden of growth on newcomers but on anyone who builds a home.”

Bill Palmer, a land-use planning consultant with a background in urban planning, said Monday he was attending Tuesday night’s meeting to express his opposition to raised impact fees.

“I’ve never been a supporter of impact fee,” he said. “They are an unfair tax that penalizes new construction. I think that if there’s a need for funds counties should raise the taxes to fund whatever public expenditures are needed. That’s my basic philosophical position.”

In addition, Palmer pointed out that impact fees in this case are inequitable.

“I know Port Orchard and Bremerton don’t have impact fees. It is inequitable for people to pay these fees in the county that people don’t have to pay for in cities,” he said.

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