Impact fees and water rules at crux of Housing Issues Briefing

Pat Thomsen, of Caldwell Banker Uptown Realty, left, talks with Elliot Eisenberg, center, and Port of Port Angeles Executive Director Jeff Robb, right, at the Housing Issues Briefing. Sequim Gazette photo by Amanda Winters

Real estate agents from across the peninsula gathered last week at The Landing mall in Port Angeles to hear two speakers discuss challenges facing home builders and buyers.

The 2010 Housing Issues Briefing featured Bill Clarke, an attorney specializing in natural resource, environmental and land use law, and Elliot Eisenberg, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C.

The speakers addressed Department of Ecology water regulations and soon-to-be-imposed building permit fees that could have a negative impact on a slowly recovering market.

Michael McAleer, an associate broker with Re/Max and a member of the Sequim Association of Realtors, said since 2008 there has been a consistent increase in the ratio between building permits in the city of Sequim and in the unincorporated areas outside of Sequim. One explanation is increased fees associated with building permits, he said.

Sequim impact fees

On March 22, the Sequim City Council passed an impact fee for single-family home permits that added another $6,000 to a bill that already was close to $15,000.

Eisenberg criticized regulations and fees imposed by the government.

"The law is well-intended but the outcome is lousy," he said.

Ultimately the burden of the increase will be shouldered by landowners and buyers, further damaging Sequim's sagging housing market, Eisenberg said.

"You can buy a home for less in Dallas than you can in Sequim," he said.

Eisenberg also took on the Department of Ecology's water regulations.

"There's lots of water

in Washington state," he said. "I don't know what

the problem is."

Dungeness flow

Clarke said the department's regulations on maintaining a specific instream flow in the Dungeness River present the challenge of how to provide the water necessary to serve the growth areas.

Clarke suggested local government get involved by tracking new wells and building permits to determine impact on the river levels.

"A well that's 50 feet from the river will have a different impact than a well that's 5,000 feet from the river," he said.

Clarke said the regulations are risky because when supply is limited, people will take it until it's gone.

After the presentations, Marguerite Glover, co-owner of Peter Black Real Estate, said the inability to use well water for nondomestic uses has a huge impact unless the resident is fortunate enough to get irrigation water.

The cost of buying potable water from a water bank hasn't been determined, along with what various mitigation fees will cost, causing potential buyers to have too many questions, she said.

"It is the main reason land is not selling," she said.

Reach Amanda Winters at

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