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Impact fee hike repealed in Kitsap

In a dramatic example of photo-finish democracy, the Kitsap County Commis-sioners reversed their decision to impose a gradual increase in impact fees during a marathon five-hour meeting Monday night at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Silverdale.

The moment belonged to Central Kitsap Commissioner Patty Lent, who was the swing vote as to whether the increase should be implemented or whether the impact fees (assessed for every newly constructed building) would remain at 1992 levels

Commissioners Jan Angel and Chris Endresen, respectively opposed to and in favor of an increase, did not change their long-held positions. Lent originally voted with Endresen in May to implement the increases, but on Monday changed her mind and requested a re-examination of the issue.

The impact fees affect schools, roads and parks.

For instance, the schools would receive $8,971,208 under the new structure, but only $5,264,208 otherwise.

Educators, not surprisingly, provided the hearing’s strongest pro-impact fee voice. Otherwise, the lines weren’t clearly drawn. Meeting attendees seemed evenly divided about the issue, with testimony balanced on both sides.

Applause for opposite points was of similar volume. When Angel polled the audience at 10:30 whether to continue or postpone the hearing, the opinions were evenly divided. Only loud cries of “finish it!” moved the hearing toward a conclusion.

“There is a lot of brainpower in this room,” said Silverdale consultant Hank Mann-Sykes toward the end of the testimony period, “I’d like to see you leave the impact fees where they are for now and get everyone here, on both sides of the aisle, to work out an equitable solution. Maybe you could assess an impact fee on the sale of every property, new or existing.”

Lent apparently agreed.

At around 11:15, the commissioners asked the audience whether they should vote on the issue immediately or postpone it until next Monday’s regular meeting; to give them a chance to review written testimony. After several shouts of, “Vote now,” (a indication that many would not be able to attend a daytime meeting) Lent made the motion to keep the fees at the current level and seek alternative funding sources to meet the shortfall.

As late as Monday afternoon, Lent said she had an open mind. “I’m not sure that new construction should support the entire burden of growth,” she said. Immediately following the meeting she said she might have allocated more money to the schools if she had the chance to reflect, but prompting from the audience caused her to make the motion based on the available data.

During the ensuing discussion, Endresen read off a list of county roads that will not be improved and said, “We are saying, ‘We’ll worry about that later,’ and that’s not responsible government. By keeping impact fees unrealistically low, we are telling homebuyers that we’ve created a community where they can by the house but, oh by the way, we’ll be asking to raise your property taxes to pay for schools, road and parks.”

Others, however, disagreed.

“Enough is never enough,” said Vivian Henderson, executive director of the Kitsap Alliance of Property Owners, “and impact fees are not fair and equitable. Property taxes for undeveloped property should be placed in escrow accounts to support future development.”

Port Orchard resident William Palmer added, “I’m opposed to impact fees across the board. I don’t think they represent an equitable choice. When we built Silverdale, there was a co-operative effort between the public and private sector. We should be open to building an effective public-private partnership.”

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