As the region’s leaders try to reconcile growth with Washington laws forbidding new development that overloads public roads, local governments are taking a closer look at impact fees.
“The bottom line is we are at a point where development is causing intersections to fail,” Spokane Valley City Attorney Mike Connelly told the City Council Tuesday night.
When a commercial or residential development is proposed it may only contribute 10 percent of the traffic at a soon-to-be-failing intersection, but the city can’t approve the project unless money is available to fix the entire problem within six years.
Recently Spokane, Spokane Valley and the Spokane Regional Transportation Council have all moved toward gathering the extensive technical data required to charge impact fees that could provide another funding source for road improvements.
Spokane Valley has set aside money to study the fees, and the council has been requesting presentations on them from city staff.
At SRTC a study on a regional system to pay for the impact of growth was completed early this year. Spokane Valley Councilman Gary Schimmels, who serves on SRTC’s board, said a task force is forming to propose a way to collect and distribute money for impacts that cross city boundaries.
The city of Spokane is the farthest along. Much of the data on existing street conditions have been assembled, and an advisory committee is expected to recommend an impact fee ordinance to the mayor in the next month, said Chief Operating Office John Pilcher.
“It’s not an easy topic,” he said, but the group of business, building industry and neighborhood representatives are close to hammering out a proposal.
By law, the fees on a project have to be in proportion to its impact, and they cannot be used to fix existing deficiencies.
Although the fees would pay for only a fraction of the cost of street upgrades, Pilcher said the effect would be immediate because the money could be used for the city’s matching funds for state and federal grants, which pay for about 70 percent of the road work in the city.
The ordinance would not prevent Spokane from being a part of a regional system, Pilcher said, but the city wanted to get something in place sooner.