Sequim council to seek concurrency consultant

The city will send out a request for proposals for two studies necessary to begin charging impact fees to developers, the council decided at Monday's work session.

Whether the two studies, which could total $150,000, will be funded will be decided later during the budget process after the proposals are evaluated.

Interim city manager Bob Spinks told the council the studies of the city's 20-year transportation and capital facilities needs - necessary to meet concurrency requirements - could be funded out of the city's real estate excise tax fund.

The transportation study is estimated to cost $100,000 and the city hall and facilities study is estimated to cost $50,000.

City attorney Craig Ritchie said these studies establish the level of service the city will need for transportation and capital facilities during the next 20 years. Then those service levels are used to establish impact fees to charge developers that pay for new infrastructure.

"What is necessary in Sequim during the next 20 years?" he asked.

These studies should be put into the 2009 budget, Ritchie said.

City Councilor Paul McHugh said he is concerned about the impact of budget cuts so he isn't ready yet to commit to the studies.

Ritchie said if the city doesn't have studies in place to justify its impact fees, it faces potential litigation from not just developers but from opponents claiming the city isn't following its comprehensive plan.

City Councilor Bill Huizinga said he called for impact fees a long time ago. He tried to get a regional impact fee but Port Angeles was unwilling to go along, Huizinga said. "I really support the concept of impact fees, especially for transportation."

Without impact fees, the city keeps increasing fees for its State Environmental Policy Act reviews, which is risky, Huizinga said. "I fully support impact fees," he said.

City Councilor Ken Hays said he couldn't disagree but one reason for the city's tight budget is a lack of fees.

The concurrency ordinance and impact fees are revenue sources so they should proceed with them, he said.

Spinks said they can send out the request for proposals and then explore using the real estate excise tax to fund the studies once they see the costs.

Mayor Laura Dubois said the city needs the impact fee revenue. So if they have to spend money on the studies to establish those fees, then they should spend the money, she said.

City Councilor Walt Schubert said although he'd like to see the money spent elsewhere, the city can't do anything without a study. So it absolutely needs to be done, he said.

Hays said there's no evidence that regulation such as impact fees stops growth, "so don't let that scare you."

McHugh said they should be cautious and take their time because it might be another couple of years before growth returns and the real estate excise tax revenue could decline.

Schubert said that eight years ago the general facilities charge was cut in half and that spurred growth so the council should be careful about creating a new fee.

"I want to see exactly what is being proposed before I vote," he said.

City Councilor Erik Erichsen said they weren't taking a vote.

Dubois said the consensus was to send out the request for proposals to get an idea of the studies' costs for the budget.

Concurrency is one of 14 goals that cities and counties must consider in land-use planning, according to the 1990 Growth Management Act.

It is intended to ensure public facilities and services such as sewer, water, transportation, parks, schools and capital facilities are adequate to serve new development.

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