County to impose impact fees

After nearly three hours of testimony by more than 30 people Tuesday evening at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners voted two to one to raise impact fees on new residential and business construction.

Impact fees would help pay for school, road and park projects within the county. The phased-in fees would begin next July.

The opposing vote was cast by South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel.

The raised fees, authorized through the Growth Management Act, will be based on 60 percent of estimated building costs, not 100 percent.

Commissioner Chris Endresen, who along with commissioner Patty Lent voted for the impact-fee hikes, emphasized this was the first raise since 1992 and that the fee hikes are being phased in.

“They are not taking effect until July of 2004. That’s so we can look at other options,” Endresen said.

She also noted there may ultimately be no impact fee hikes.

“We can always rescind the impact fees. And if we are not successful in finding alternatives, they are still phased in,” Endresen said.

But opponents of the measure say they feel betrayed.

“The saddest thing about the meeting the other night was that those who opposed the increases are being accused of not caring about schools and parks and that’s just not true,” said Vivian Henderson, executive director of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners.

“I’m very disappointed. It’s like they already had their minds made up (before the vote),” Henderson said.

“If there were not two votes to go forward, we would not have had a hearing,” Endresen said. “We’ve worked on this for three years, having discussions, work studies. The homebuilders asked us to collect the fees at certificate of occupancy (currently fees are collected when building permits are filed). We did that, which saves them interest on construction fees. And they are phased in, not immediate.”

“I was disappointed,” Angel said. “Here we are having a hearing to listen to the people and I question whether the people were heard. That was frustrating for me.

“We’ve got to look for options,” Angel continued. “We need to get something (else) in place in the next year before the new rates go into effect. These rates are going to (negatively) affect economic development in Kitsap County. I do not want these fees to go into effect.”

“Impact fees should be called impact taxes,” Henderson said. “People need to understand these fees are an unfair tax unequally distributed.”

“It is a Catch-22 situation,” Endresen countered. “There’s no doubt about the fact that it is going to raise the cost of a new home.”

Current fees for a single-family home throughout the county are $1,974.

That will rise, under the new fee schedules, to $3,440 by 2007, in Bremerton, the area with the smallest fee hikes, and to $5,134 in parts of North Kitsap, the area hit hardest by the phased-in impact fees.

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