A recent political mailer by Sequim city councilor Ted Miller irked some of his fellow councilmen’s challengers and some local developers. He cautions voters against Pete Duncan, running for Position 1, and John Miller, Position 2, because of their alleged alliance with developers and inclination to reduce or abolish developer impact fees, a developer-paid fee on new buildings and structures for new city roads and other projects.
Ted Miller says developers want taxpayers to pay their costs and increase their profits and do everything they can do to try to hide their candidates’ positions. He says the result of opposing impact fees forces residents to raise taxes or endure traffic congestion and dangerous conditions with no new improvements.
Candidate John Miller wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette that Ted Miller is trying to divert the attention of voters from council members’ decision to ignore the needs and desires of residents for their own agenda to build a $20 million city hall.
“In this effort he has employed the old tactics of pitting one group against another and fear mongering,” John Miller wrote.
“He also unjustly insinuated that I am in the pocket of local real estate developers and that (they) are ‘poised to regain control of the city council.’ How do two out of seven regain control?”
John Miller said impact fees are what stunted the building industry, destroyed jobs and stopped growth in Sequim. Greg McCarry, president of Westerra Homes, said the mailer leaves out the other side of the story.
“It alleges everything the developer does is a burden to the taxpayer or the city but doesn’t show how it’s balanced against the revenue,” McCarry said. “He ignores the economic activity that building activity generates for the city. ” McCarry said it generates jobs, tax revenue, permit fee revenue and capital cost for city’s infrastructure, namely sewer and water.
McCarry said over the past 10 years, Sequim typically builds 50 homes a year and so far this year only five building permits have been issued.
Now, the city is proposing to raise its sewer and water rates because it borrowed $8 million to expand its Sewer Treatment Facility that no one is connecting to in the city, he said. “The repayment plan for the bond was coming from the connections fees charged to developers,” McCarry said.
Ted Miller told the Gazette that he sent the mailer to support Erik Erichsen, Laura Dubois and Candace Pratt, and to keep impact fees in place. He said the timing might be bad to bring up impact fees again in the bad economy, but it would be a big mistake to repeal or downgrade the fees.
“Eventually, the recession will go away. When the next boom happens the city will have fees in place,” he said.
Duncan said he thinks impact fees should be reviewed because they seem high in the city compared to in the county.
“I’ve heard that from a lot of people, not just Realtors and developers,” Duncan said. “If we review fees and they are fine, then keep them the way they are.”
Opponents also took issue with Ted Miller’s statement in the mailer that “It’s bad enough that developers want to cram development down your throats with a Sea of Rooftops from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic National Forest, but they want you and me to pay for it as well.”
McCarry said the Growth Management Act, which emphasizes that development stay inside of the city and away from rural areas, limits growth outside of the city.
“(High fees) push new homemakers to go places like the county, where the state doesn’t want it to happen,” McCarry said.
Neither the incumbents nor Pratt objected to Miller’s endorsement. No candidate paid toward its cost.
Ted Miller also supports Pratt over Eric Miller for position 7, because Eric Miller hasn’t spoken on impact fees in public.
Duncan and John Miller received an endorsement from the North Peninsula Builders Association, a community of 275-plus building members.
Editor’s note: Early estimates from city staff put a new city hall’s costs at $12-$18 million.