The city of Kennewick may charge developers a traffic impact fee to make paying for roads more predictable and bring in more revenue for road projects the city needs to serve anticipated growth.
The city’s Blue Ribbon Commission citizen advisory group recently suggested the fee as one means of paying for large, critical capital projects.
The city council discussed the proposal during a workshop meeting last week.
The fees for a particular development would be calculated based on the estimated number of “peak hour trips” by vehicles on nearby streets. Nationwide standards are used for those calculations.
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Projects planned over the next decade would support a fee of about $2,900 per vehicle trip, said Evelyn Lusignan, the city’s customer service manager.
Setting it at $900 would be competitive in the local market, she said. City officials do not want Kennewick’s fee to be the highest in the Tri-Cities. The goal is to encourage development, but have growth pay for itself, as city residents have requested.
In Eastern Washington, traffic impact fees range from $475 to $4,830 per peak hour trip. Richland charges $1,534 or $475 per peak hour trip depending on where in the city the development is occurring, according to city documents. Pasco charges $709 and West Richland charges $1,358.
Developers currently pay mitigation fees for Kennewick projects, but those fees are unpredictable because they vary for each project and are determined as part of the State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, review, Lusignan said.
“Developers want to know upfront what the development is going to cost,” she said.
And developers have told city officials that it would help to have a more predictable method. A traffic impact fee will provide that and give city some flexibility in using the revenue, as well as a source of city matching funds for state and federal grants.
Some developers will end up paying less than they previously had for projects, and others will end up paying more, Lusignan said.
But overall, the city does expect to collect more from the impact fee than what it gets from the variable fee. Developers will be able to pay the fee at the end of the development process, instead of having to carry the cost of the fees through construction.
The traffic impact fees can only be used to pay for projects that are needed based on growth. And the fees can only pay for new growth’s portion of the city-funded part of a specific project. So if a state or federal grant is received, that cuts back on what the fee revenue can cover.
The city plans about $47.1 million worth of road projects that would be eligible for transportation impact fees in the next decade, according to city documents. About 40 percent of the cost — about $18.7 million — can be attributed to serving growth.
City officials will meet with developers and home builders April 28 to go over the proposal. The council is expected to hold a public hearing on May 19.