The truth about facilities charges | Letter to the Editor

YarrowBay and the city of Black Diamond entered into development agreements which required the city to hire a consultant to perform a study regarding General Governmental Facilities Charges ("GFC's," such as a City Hall, police department, municipal court, public works facility, etc.), so that the city could establish "GFC mitigation fee rates" to be imposed on new development. There was a deadline in the agreements for the work to take place, as well as the adoption of the GFC fees.

  • Friday, April 1, 2016 1:01pm
  • Opinion

YarrowBay and the city of Black Diamond entered into development agreements which required the city to hire a consultant to perform a study regarding General Governmental Facilities Charges (“GFC’s,” such as a City Hall, police department, municipal court, public works facility, etc.), so that the city could establish “GFC mitigation fee rates” to be imposed on new development. There was a deadline in the agreements for the work to take place, as well as the adoption of the GFC fees.

The city hired a planning consultant to perform a very expensive study, which was paid for by YarrowBay. These consultants calculated that the city needed $48 million to construct the new “State of the Art” City Hall, police department (including an on-site practice range in the basement), court and public works shop and yard. This projected $48 million price tag was not based on any analysis of the city’s future space needs as reflected in the city’s Comprehensive Plan, nor was it included in any estimate from an architect or contractor for any facility.

It is important to note that if the city adopted a GFC fee to construct a $48 million City Hall, then the city would have to impose it on all new development, not just the developments included in the YarrowBay (now Oakpointe and Crown Community Development) development agreements). So, anyone applying for a development permit in the city would have to pay the $5,866 GFC fee, in addition to any other impact/mitigation fees that the city adopted (for transportation, parks, schools and fire protection facilities).

The city adopted the consultant’s study and plan as a draft, in order to consider it more fully. Immediately thereafter, the city was sued by YarrowBay in two different forums (Superior Court and the Growth Management Hearings Board), based on allegations of inadequacies in the study, and that the fee violated state law. The city attorney filed motions to dismiss both the lawsuit and the appeal, arguing that because the city had not made a final decision to impose the GFC in any amount, the lawsuit/appeal was premature. The court and the board, agreed, and both dismissed the lawsuit/appeal. No decision was made by the court or board on the merits of YarrowBay’s arguments, only on the prematurity issue.

The council minutes will reflect that there was substantial public testimony about the GFC fee, practically all of which was negative. Given the unpopularity of the GFC fee, and the likelihood that the city would be sued again by the developer if the city pursued the GFC fee with the challenged study, the city staff decided to research whether imposing GFC’s on new development made sense. This research revealed that there were no cities or counties in Washington imposing GFC’s fees on development. Issaquah had adopted a similar ordinance, but told our staff that they had never imposed any fees on development under that ordinance.

If Save Black Diamond believes that the city received bad legal advice on this issue, then the city welcomes their legal analysis to show how the city’s legal advice (from two different attorneys in two different firms) was erroneous. Until then, we would ask Save Black Diamond to explain how the city could force anyone to pay for City Hall and police station expansions that were totally unplanned (they are not included in the city’s comprehensive plan or capital facilities plan). Save Black Diamond also needs to explain their astounding statement that the taxpayers would be required to pay $10 to $30 million, when the city has no plans to build these facilities.

It is easy to see that this is just a story being told by Save Black Diamond so that the public will view the city in a bad light. If Save Black Diamond actually has “lots of experts … highly respected,” and if this amount of money is actually at stake, then Save Black Diamond should commission a legal opinion to support their wild accusations. It should explain exactly why, if the collection of these GFC fees is perfectly legal, every city and county in the state of Washington is not imposing them. Every city and county in Washington has City Halls, police stations and other public facilities and uses other traditional methods to finance them.

Carol Benson

Mayor

Black Diamond

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