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New homes come with impact fees

Developers would have to pay as much as $3,044 in growth impact fees for each new home they build in southeast Spokane to help pay for the new roads needed to carry traffic in that part of the city.

Spokane officials on Tuesday evening unveiled a proposal to offset the cost of keeping up with growth and development by charging state-authorized impact fees to pay for roads, schools, parks and fire stations.

The plan divides the city into five districts, and establishes charges based on the need for public facilities in each district.

Charges for commercial development, schools and churches would be based on the number of vehicle trips they would be expected to generate during the peak hour of afternoon traffic. Homes typically generate one vehicle trip during the afternoon rush hour.

The proposed impact fees per rush-hour trip by district are $3,044 for southeast Spokane, $2,151 for the northwest district, $1,274 for the northeast district, $963 for the southwest district and $655 for downtown.

Developers are not necessarily opposed to the fees because they provide greater certainty about how much it would cost to develop land, and provide for public improvements needed to serve developments.

For years, residents on Five Mile prairie have complained about the narrow roads serving that fast-growing residential area, and impact fees would be used to build improvements such as a widening of Five Mile Road, which has been planned but not completed.

Jason Wheaton, president of Greenstone Homes, said he has worked in cities that charge impact fees, including Liberty Lake, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, and finds that they allow quicker development of adequate roads such as improvements to Harvard Road in Liberty Lake, which used voluntary impact fees for that project.

“If the roads don’t work well, neither do the developments,” he said. Traffic planning now is piecemeal in Spokane, he said.

Wheaton served on a community work group that was formed by former Mayor Dennis Hession to study possible fees.

The Spokane Plan Commission is expected to hold public hearings and take testimony on the proposal prior to forwarding it to the City Council for final action. Those hearings are not yet scheduled, but could occur this spring.

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