Black Diamond approves Traffic Impact Fees ordinance

The ordinance was adopted at the Oct. 7 council meeting. The city can start collecting in January.

Cities use Traffic Impact Fees to collect money from developers to help increase traffic capacity. File image

Cities use Traffic Impact Fees to collect money from developers to help increase traffic capacity. File image

Black Diamond will soon be armed with another way to help fund traffic projects around the city — Transportation Impact Fees.

The city council has been considering adopting Transportation Impact Fees (or TIFs) for several months; elected officials first reviewed the proposed ordinance back in July, and a public hearing was held in August.

The ordinance, which adds a new chapter to the Black Diamond Municipal Code, was unanimously adopted during the Oct. 7 council meeting. The city will be able to start collecting TIFs in January 2022.

Previously to adopting TIFs, the city was only able to collect impact mitigation fees through the State Environmental Policy Act, which determined if a project would have an impact on things like traffic and wildlife.

But TIFs “create a standardized, fair proportionate share based on anticipated trip generation — just new traffic added to the roadway network,” City Attorney David Linehan explained during the Oct. 7 meeting. “It is not a replacement for SEPA review, and if a particular project comes in, and it’s clear there’s going to be additional transportation needs generated by that project that is above and beyond the general background increase in capacity, then SEPA still allows the city to say, ‘you also need to build this improvement,’ or, ‘you also need to do this other thing to offset these project-based impacts from your project.’”

This new ordinance won’t mean Black Diamond will suddenly be flush with money, however; Master Planned Developments like Ten Trails are exempt from TIFs, even though the project accounts for the vast majority of development in the city.

According to Back Diamond’s Public Works Director Seth Boettcher, this is because Master Planned Developments already take into consideration that additional housing impacts local amenities, services, and especially traffic. For example, when Ten Trails reaches certain population limits, developers are already on the hook to build new schools and road improvements.

“We can’t double dip,” Boettcher said.

Additionally, Black Diamond isn’t able to use TIFs to just fund any project the city wants — the funds can only be used for “system improvements that will reasonably benefit new development” and “not… to make up for deficiencies in the facilities serving existing development” or maintenance and operations costs, according to the ordinance.

Boettcher added that the city does not expect these TIFs to be a deterrent to developers looking to come to Black Diamond.

TIFs are “insignificant to the bigger questions of other costs — do they need to extend a water main? Do they need to extend sewer? What other improvements are needed for this in-fill lot? Sometimes those are enormous” fees, Boettcher said. “[Those] are much bigger issues than $500 this way or that way on a Traffic Impact Fee.”

According to a Transportation Impact Fee Rate study, a single-family home would come with a TIF of just over $2,500; multi-family homes, like apartments, just under $1,500.

NO EXCEPTIONS FOR CERTAIN DEVELOPERS

Some cities carve out TIF discounts or exemptions for certain developers.

For example, the Maple Valley City Council recently passed an update to their TIF ordinance allowing an 80 percent discount for early-learning centers (daycares) that are built inside city limits. Meanwhile, the city Enumclaw does not have any exceptions for developers.

It appears that the Black Diamond City Council is interested in following Enumclaw’s footsteps in not giving any developers a break.

Councilmember Bernie O’Donnell was one of the most vocal in not allowing any exemptions.

“There are other ways to incentivize developers to provide low-income housing without reducing the revenue to transportation funding,” he said during the Oct. 7 meeting. “If we are discounting what a developer has to pay because of low-income housing, we’re losing precious dollars we need for addressing the impact of transportation. It could be a double-whammy on us.”

Councilmember Melissa Oglesbee agreed.

“I don’t feel like we need be offering discounts to our developers, regardless of its a low-income house of if it’s an early school — it’s still going to bring people to city, still going to bring more traffic to our roads,” she said. “Why are we giving developers a discount for bringing more traffic to our roads?”

Councilmember Debbie Paige put it most succinctly; “Growth pays for growth, and that’s what we want to see.”

Councilmember Kristiana de Leon was one of the few with a dissenting opinion, and urged the council to consider some exemptions in a future workshop meeting, which was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 18.


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