Sammamish likely to raise developer impact fees
January 22, 2013
By Caleb Heeringa
New: Jan. 22, 11:17 a.m.
The Sammamish City Council will likely increase the impact fees it charges developers for new projects to keep pace with inflation.
But 2013 will also see the city do a comprehensive review of those fees – some of the highest charged by any city in the state – and the projected road construction projects that underpin them. The Planning Commission is due to take up the matter later this year.
At their Jan. 22 meeting, the council is scheduled to consider a 3.5 percent increase in the city’s Transportation Impact Fees from $14,854 per single-family housing unit to $15,375. Parks Impact Fees would go up from $2,606 to $2,697. The fee hikes are meant to reflect a five-year average of inflation in construction costs in recent years.
While the city’s park impact fee is lower than comparable cities like Redmond and Issaquah, its traffic fees are off the charts. According a survey complied by the Association of Washington Cities, Sammamish’s current fee of $14,854 is almost six times that charged by the typical Washington city. Redmond charges $6,916 while Issaquah only charges $1,646, according to the survey. Another survey compiled by the city of Bellingham puts the median traffic impact fees charged by cities throughout the state at $2,466.
Impact fees are calculated by dividing the amount of future commercial and residential development expected by the total cost of the road projects the city expects to build.
Victor Salemann, a senior associate at Bellevue-based traffic consultant firm David Evans and Associates, told the council Sammamish is in a unique position as far as that calculation goes. It expects a small amount of growth (relative to other communities) over the coming decades but has a lot of new pavement to lay down because of the infrastructure deficit it was left by King County and the sprawling nature of the city.
“Sammamish doesn’t have a whole lot of new development as far as residential or retail to spread those costs,” Salemann said. “You have a pretty small amount of growth over the next 20 years to spread over a big capital plan.”
The upcoming review of the city’s roads standards could be an opportunity to reclassify some roads, potentially putting off the need to upgrade them in the future, thus bringing down the impact fees. Councilman Ramiro Valderrama has advocated doing this with East Lake Sammamish Parkway, potentially delaying any further expansion of the road indefinitely.
In recognition of the high rates and the shaky economy in recent years, Sammamish provides developers with some flexibility in paying impact fees – allowing a developer to wait until a home is sold rather than when the building permit is issued.
The council approved extending that flexibility through the end of 2014 at their Dec. 11 meeting by a 5-1 vote with Mayor Tom Odell opposed.
Odell said he felt the home construction market had sufficiently recovered in recent years.
Councilman John Curley pointed out that impact fees are typically passed on to the home-buyer, something that affects all new Sammamish residents and could be reflected in the prices charged by any new retail development that came to town.
“The builder doesn’t pay the impact fees,” Curley said. “This is paid by Mr. and Mrs. Smith that live down the street.”
Transportation impact fees by city as of 2012
Source: Association of Washington Cities
Reporter Caleb Heeringa can be reached at 392-6434. ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org.