News

Council debates traffic impact fee rebates

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The Bonney Lake City Council is moving closer to an agreement to rebate traffic impact fees for retail businesses in Eastown and Downtown, but a final vote is a few meetings away.

The council spent most of the July 14 workshop discussing the three options presented by city staff.

“The point of this (ordinance) is to get certain business in certain areas,” Mayor Neil Johnson said. “We are trying to give incentives for the right mix of business and the right fit for Eastown and Downtown.”

The final ordinance will fall into one of three categories and will affect Eastown and the Downtown core, or all areas of the city

The first ordinance called for retail business in the Downtown core to generate from $7,500 to $11,000 in sales tax and an Eastown business must hit $150,000.

The rebate would equal 50 percent of traffic impact fees if the sales tax target is hit and 25 percent if 75 percent of sales tax target is reached.

The second alternative would look for targeted retail business in Eastown and Downtown and other areas of the city. The city could try to encourage certain types of businesses to locate in Eastown and other areas.

The rebate would be 50 percent of sale tax returned or 50 percent of the traffic impact fee paid, whichever is larger. In the Downtown core up to 100 percent of the sales tax would be returned based on the total amount of the traffic impact fee.

The third alternative stated a business in Eastown must meet a $50,000 annual sales tax target. In Downtown, a business is eligible no matter the how much sales tax is generated, but the business must demolish the old building and build a new one of at least 15,000 square feet.

The rebate for the third alternative in Eastown is 50 percent of the traffic impact fee returned if sales tax target is reached and 25 percent if 75 percent of the target is hit. Downtown is 100 percent sales tax returned depending on how much the business pays for traffic impact.

During the workshop the members leaned toward the third alternative with the sales tax thresholds lowered to $30,000 from $50,000 in Eastown.

“I could support the $30,000 threshold,” Councilman Mark Hamilton said. “We have to be careful. There is a reason why we want development in the Downtown and Eastown.”

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman noted it was a “giveaway to some developer. It is what it is.”

Johnson said the third alternative is good, but he prefers a higher threshold and targeting business for Eastown and Downtown.

“Trying to give every business a break doesn't get the business where they are meant to be,” Johnson said.

The mayor defended the city's impact fees stating, “we need impact fees and we didn't have them in previous years. Bonney Lake is still growing. And what are developers going to do to draw businesses? Are they going to lower the price of land or is it all the city giving breaks?”

The City Council sponsored a public meeting on the proposed ordinance Tuesday and the members will debate the issue again in an upcoming workshop.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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