Development fees drop in Sammamish

May 14, 2014

By Ari Cetron

New: May 14, 10:13 a.m.

A quasi-tax in Sammamish decreased, but it’s not one that existing homeowners are likely to notice.
The transportation impact fee for new developments in Sammamish dropped 4.4 percent from a base of $14,706.89 to $14,063.63. This is the first time the fee has changed since 2006. The new regulations also make a minor adjustment to how much a developer must pay when building affordable housing.
The new fee, paid by developers building new homes or commercial spaces (and often passed on to the buyers of those new homes), was approved unanimously by the City Council.
The fee represents the new properties’ share of building new roads and other transportation facilities. It decreased this year because the city removed a large project, the East Lake Sammamish Parkway, from its list of planned improvements. With that project off the books, there are fewer roads projects to which a project would contribute.
The base fee is not actually what developers pay. That number is adjusted depending on the particular sort of development. For example, single-family homes pay 1.1 times the base fee per unit. The number of trips a given land use typically generates is how the adjustment is calculated.
Councilman Don Gerend wondered if the city’s particular circumstances are figured into the calculation. Since there are few retail options on the plateau, he asked if trip length is a factor.
Trip length does count, said Laura Philpot, the city’s public works director. She said the city typically uses the national standards for how much traffic a given development will generate. However, she noted that a developer could present a traffic study if they believe their development will differ from that standard.
City Manager Ben Yazici said the city also uses the national standard since it is generally accepted, and therefore makes it more difficult for the city to be sued. He reiterated Philpot’s point about using individual studies if the developer wants to pay for them.
“If somebody else has better data … we’re open to seeing the traffic studies,” Yazici said.
The city also changed the amount developers must pay when building affordable units.
Developers do not need to pay the full amount of an impact fee when building units designated for low- or moderate-income people, but the city has to make up the difference. A change in state law gives cities more flexibility in how it will make up that difference, and the new regulations take advantage of the new flexibility.

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