Bonney Lake City Council and mayoral candidates debate issues

Editor’s Note: Candidates for the mayor and City Council Positions answered the questions this week posed by the editorial staff of the Courier-Herald.

The election is Nov. 5 and ballots must be postmarked by that date.

The candidates are:

• Mayor, Neil Johnson and James Rackley

• Position 3, Dan Swatman and James ‘’Kelly’’ McClimans, Sr. McClimans did not send answers;

• Position 6, Donn Lewis and Shawnta Mulligan. Mulligan did not send answers.

 

Question 1:  Do impact fees promote or impede business and residential development? What do you see as the advantages and/or disadvantages of impact fees.

Rackley: Impact fees have no correlation to construction volume of new homes in Bonney Lake.  This is evident by reviewing city construction records verses all county wide construction for years.  While we have seen increased construction after lowering these fees over the last year, so has Tehaleh, which has no fees.  These costs were all calculated by professionals hired by the city of Bonney lake and are not created out of thin air. During times of very fast growth they can be seen very clearly, as happened over the last decade. Funds were available to expand the sewer system (approximately $10 million) and to build a 15 million gallon water storage tank (approximately $10 million).  The same is true for parks, trails and sidewalks.

 

Johnson: As we review this question, we should keep in mind there has always been a form of impact fees it is called SEPA. This process was arbitrary and didn’t always account for the appropriate amount of infrastructure that is needed for water, sewer and traffic. It is important that growth pays for itself, however if there is a certain sector that needs to be the focus of the city then you could look at some of the incentive ordinances that were put in place to attract building and retail activity during the recession. The Good Samaritan Medical Building and Franciscan Medical Building are perfect examples of what can be accomplished.

Another item to note for us in Bonney Lake, the cost of infrastructure improvements is much higher due to our topography when expanding the water and sewer lines. The other area we have lacked from the 90’s was funding for additional north/south routes on the Plateau. Impact fees do work both ways, you just need to be aware of what the needs and desires are of the citizens.

Question 2: Parks are an ongoing discussion in the city. What do you see as the best course for the city to take in the coming years for parks and ball fields. Are there enough in the city, are more needed and if so how should would the funding work?

Johnson: As a city we seem to have enough fields for today’s population, however the biggest issue is looking towards the future. We need to have a financial plan in place to addresses the needs of Bonney Lake and encourage the same of the unincorporated Pierce County areas. A good funding plan could be put together in a bond package for projects and maintenance for the citizens of Bonney Lake to vote on. This package would allow for a detailed list of what will be constructed and maintained over the time frame of the bond. Some of the items we have been told to look at is ball fields, trails, active open space, dog parks and a recreation / community center. In putting together this bond package, the city must reach out to all stakeholders so we can maximize the dollars and efforts by all. I have always been reminded, a healthy community is a strong community.

Rackley: The city could use four more baseball and soccer fields right now. Over the last five years the general fund has been very strained and investments in this area have been few, but in the near future more we will begin to do better.  It all depends on the economy recovering.  It might be possible to increase the parks impact fee to help cover the cost.

 

Question 3: How has the Eastown process been handled by the city and how should it be handled in the future.

Rackley: Laurie Carter’s article on Eastown in last week’s Courier-Herald did a good job of explaining the situation in Eastown.  I have been trying for years, to persuade, cajole, and even yell a few times to move this forward as fast as possible.  If elected I will push even harder.

The future of our city is predicated on the income from this infrastructure improvement and subsequent development. We are currently in discussions with the county to annex the county’s urban growth area south of the city.  The tax funds from Eastown are needed to help pay for this.

Johnson: Here is another area that has been “under” construction for 13 years or so. In 2000, this area annexed into the city, and at that time the folks in Eastown expected to have sewers installed. Since becoming mayor in 2006, I have worked hard with the council to come up with various plans of action that were discussed with many stakeholders. In 2012, a partnership was formed and passed by the council that will have sewers installed in Eastown by 2014.  It is important for the city to continue taking an active role in this process so we can make sure the area develops as envisioned in the Eastown plan while providing the necessary services to the citizens of Bonney Lake.

 

• Position 3, Dan Swatman

Question 1:  Do impact fees promote or impede business and residential development? What do you see as the advantages and/or disadvantages of impact fees.

Swatman: Impact fees are a critical part on ensuring that development pays for the impacts, not existing residents. Impact fees have to be at the correct level to be effective. I worked with council approval, to bring a top economist to the city to present information about what level the impact fees should be at in our current economic conditions. Currently these fees have paid for many improvements such as the intersection on 410 by Franciscan, which was a partnership between private and public dollars, the partial improvements to Veterans Memorial and 410, which will be finished through future work at the intersection of 410 funded by payments from the Tehaleh development.

By having the correct level of impact fees, private development such as the new Red Robin that is going in by Target, are able to come to Bonney Lake while at the same time providing enough in impact fees for needed improvements. Too low and the taxpayers will get stuck with the bill for improvements and if set too high future councils are likely to overshoot lowering the fees, when the cycle of fee adjustment occurs

Question 2: Parks are an ongoing discussion in the city. What do you see as the best course for the city to take in the coming years for parks and ball fields. Are there enough in the city, are more needed and if so how should would the funding work?

Swatman: Bonney Lake is a fantastic community to live in and raise a family. Parks, play fields, trails and open space are key elements contributing to the quality of life. As a council member I always look toward the future needs of the community, as the community grows more parks, play fields, trails will be needed.

As a council member I support purchasing necessary land when the land is available such as the recent purchase of the property by Victor Falls. This property will provide future room for park space and public access to the actual falls, which are second in height to Snoqualmie Falls. The 45 acres of park in the midtown area, many other smaller pieces and many slivers of property that may be connected for future trails continue to be purchased. Having the property is a critical step, while there is no funding for large-scale improvements to many of these areas, having the property will provide options for the future. As opposed to a large open-ended tax, a specific targeted bond measure with very specific costs and results could be presented to the voters.

Question 3: How has the Eastown process been handled by the city and how should it be handled in the future.

Swatman: As with any complex issue, a significant amount of time and effort must be done to achieve a solution that works for everyone. Eastown is composed of many property owners and several interest groups who all have specific issues and needs. Finding a solution was often contentious and challenging. Contention is a necessary component during the process of finding a solution. I worked with the administration and several other council members to form a proposal that was approved unanimously by the city council. The current solution is under construction to provide needed infrastructure.

The Eastown and Midtown area will continue to be areas that provide the community with commercial opportunities and tax base that will help reduce property taxes and provide general fund revenue. The city plays a key role in providing the necessary infrastructure needed by the private property owners. Planning for these future needs has always been a key issue for me as I look toward the future. The developers will pay their share of the costs of the necessary improvements; failure to plan for these needs leaves the possibility of the taxpayers getting stuck for the bill because of inattention to provide for these future needs.

 

• Position 6, Donn Lewis

Question 1:  Do impact fees promote or impede business and residential development? What do you see as the advantages and/or disadvantages of impact fees.

Lewis: The current City Council has always viewed impact fees as a necessity for future growth of the city.  As each development takes place, there will be a required impact on the city’s water, sewer, and traffic.  The fact that this development will definitely require additional city resources means that this new growth should pay for the required increases and additions needed to supply the water, sewer, and traffic improvements necessary to support that potential new growth.  In other words, growth should pay for itself and the city’s impact fees are the way that happens.  The new Franciscan Medical Building and the resulting new Downtown Main Street/Highway 410 intersection with new curbs and sidewalks is the most recent result of how the city and a new developer can work together to make these types of improvements happen.

Question 2: Parks are an ongoing discussion in the city. What do you see as the best course for the city to take in the coming years for parks and ball fields. Are there enough in the city, are more needed and if so how should would the funding work?

Lewis: Future parks and ballfields are important for all our residents.  While today we have enough for our current population of over 18,000 people, we know that we must plan for both future growth.  Part of this is to work with Pierce County and surrounding towns to ensure the entire area can meet this new demand.  With the downturn in the economy, Bonney Lake has seen a reduction in Sales Tax revenue which impacts parks. Our city has looked at ways to pay for future parks and thought the Municipal Park District or MPD might be a possible solution.  A few people thought this should be immediately “Turned Down” by the council and not placed on the ballot.  I, for one, thought the democratic way of letting the voters decide was the correct way to accomplish it.  I voted with other council members to place it on the ballot and let the people decide.

Question 3: How has the Eastown process been handled by the city and how should it be handled in the future.

Lewis: When I ran for my current council position four years ago, the position was in Ward 4 (prior to all council positions being at large).  Eastown is located in Ward 4 and I’m very familiar with its decade-plus history of trying to obtain city sewers to provide commercial development.  When the area was annexed into the city in 2000, the residents in Eastown were under the impression sewers would be installed within a few years. When I was elected to the City Council four years ago, they were still trying to get this accomplished.

Both the mayor and city council have worked hard to come up with possible plans of action.  Finally in 2012, the current ULA partnership plan for Sewer Extension into Eastown was approved by the City Council and should result in having sewers installed by 2014.  The City Council is closely monitoring this sewer installation plan to ensure this resulting new eastern area develops according to its Eastown Plan and the City’s Comprehensive Plan.