Lent's impact fee vote stirs up controversy

The backlash is building over Central Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent’s vote last month for a hike in impact fees on the construction of new homes and businesses within the county.

Lent’s vote has been called a betrayal by her fellow Republicans in letters to the editor across Kitsap County. There have even been rumors about initiating a recall of the newly elected, first-time commissioner.

Republican officials called on Lent to explain herself at a special meeting Monday night. But before she left for the meeting Monday in Bremerton, Lent adamantly defended herself.

“In my campaigning and all my literature, I said I did not believe in impact fees as an equitable source of income,” she said. “They aren’t fair. They are unjust fees.”

Lent pointed out that while people moving into existing houses or businesses paid no impact fees, those involved in new construction were forced to.

Lent said that for the six months she’s been in office, she has been seeking help from supporters and her constituency to find “alternatives” to impact fees, but no one came up with a solution.

She defended her vote for increased impact fees, and the decision to delay implementation of increased impact fees until July 1, 2004, as a way of “getting people to the table.”

“I am right now right where I want to be,” Lent said. “I have a meeting the 15th of July with realtors, home builders, contractors and (the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners)...(hopefully) people willing to draw up infrastructures for growth.”

She admitted her vote has had some costs.

“There is the feeling that I lied about taxes,” Lent said. “But I never said I would eliminate (impact fees). I just said they were not fair. There’s a special meeting tonight, where I will defend what I’ve done. I am a Republican. But I have to make things happen in this county. I feel I am on track.”

Lent didn’t dismiss the idea that the meeting might not be a pleasant place for her to be.

“There are animals that eat their young,” she said. “We’ll just see what happens after tonight when I talk to them.”

“We are having our regularly scheduled Monday meeting and then there’s a board meeting,” said Shirley Brown, chairwoman of the Kitsap County Republican Party. “But I’d rather not discuss this too deeply right now... I want to allow my board to discuss it (first).”

But Brown did say Lent’s vote came as a surprise to her and other Republicans.

“I’m sure this issue will not just go away,” she said. “Yes she (Lent) did make that promise (not to raise impact fees). We are stunned.”

“I’ve heard rumors about a recall,” said Vivian Henderson, Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners executive, on Monday “But at this point, I think it’s just that people are angry and they talk. There’s a lot of time and a commitment involved in a recall. Nobody’s asked me to sign a petition and KAPO hasn’t discussed it.”

Henderson and five other citizens, four of whom are KAPO members, met with Lent last Thursday. Officially, the group simply discussed Lent’s position.

But in her unofficial capacity, as a citizen, not a KAPO leader, Henderson’s opinion isn’t far from Shirley Brown’s.

“I feel terribly betrayed,” she said. “(Lent) defends her decision (as a way) to force people to the table to find other solutions (than impact fees). The problem is all her solutions would require a legislative decision. She also said she supports the real estate excise tax. I am absolutely against that.”

North Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen, a Democrat who voted along with Lent to raise impact fees in June, said she talked to her fellow commissioner.

“I told Patty that in all my years in county politics, the Democratic party has never called me and told me how to vote,” she said. “Patty learned the issue and did what she thought was the right thing for all the citizens, not the Republican party.”

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