Sewer development charges likely to remain the same as Council shys away from lowering costs

An attempt to lower sewer system development charges in Bonney Lake appears to be dead after a majority of council members indicated during Tuesday’s workshop that they would not support the measure.

The temporary decrease was designed as an effort to spur development in the city by reducing impact fees, which are easily the highest in the county.

But council members wondered if such a measure would make a difference in the city’s permits and worried the loss of revenue would be too much to overcome and could eventually fall back on utility ratepayers.

“It would not be wise to reduce any revenue from the utility at this point,” Councilman Mark Hamilton said, adding that no one could say if builders would start building and if the number of homes they would build would be worth the loss of revenue.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman, Councilman Jim Rackley and Councilman Donn Lewis agreed.

The measure to reduce sewer SDCs by 40 percent was supported by new council members Tom Watson and Katrina Minton-Davis and Councilman Randy McKibbin, who argued that spurring additional development was more important than the loss of revenue.

“We have enough empty buildings in this town without charging additional fees,” Watson said.

Minton-Davis also said that some system development charges, designed to pay for expansion of the system as the city grows, were already being used to subsidize the operations and maintenance on the system for ratepayers anyway and therefore the city should reduce the charges for developers.

“It is paying for itself and it is also paying for the ratepayers,” she said.

“It always boils down to a question of who pays and how much,” City Administrator Don Morrison told the council.

The Bonney Lake sewer SDC is presently $9,387, well above second-place Buckley at 6,414 and third-place Puyallup at $4,520.

Councilmembers Hamilton and Rackley also pointed out that the city hired an outside firm about five years ago to analyze the system and help set charges, ultimately resulting in the current rates.

“These aren’t made-up numbers,” Rackley said.

Though they stripped the SDC decrease from the ordinance being moved forward to the March 10 council meeting for a vote, the council did appear to reach consensus on a change to the way fees are assessed for a change-of-use.

If the ordinance passes, the city will only charge for two changes of uses at any given location – in addition to the original SDC paid by the developer. The move is supported by the mayor and the majority of the council and is expected to pass.