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City considers increases in recreation impact, facility fees

Sammamish Review of Sammamish, Washington

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"Growth pays for growth," is a phrase Sammamish City Council members repeated numerous times at their Oct. 20 meeting as they began to discuss significantly raising park impact fees.

If council moves ahead with the proposed plans, park impact payments would jump from $2,697 to $6,739 for a single-family home and from $1,558 to $4,362 for multi-family residences. The new rates would take effect in 2016.

Officials also are considering mostly slight increases in everyday park fees.

The city first instituted park and recreation impact fees in 2006, said Jessi Bon, parks and rec director. The city revisited the issue twice since then, but apparently made no major changes.

Cities only can use impact fees on projects that benefit new development, noted Bon, who added the city also must use all fees within 10 years of their collection.

The problem lies internally, said Mayor Tom Vance, noting the city has not taken a serious look at the issue in a long time. At the same time, he said Sammamish owes it to new homeowners to soften the blow as much as possible.

To do that, the City Council looked at a couple of methods for collecting fees. The state mandates that cities' allow new homeowners to use a deferred option, allowing impact fees to be paid through escrow accounts. That rule takes affect next year.

The city also will likely will offer home-buyers an exception to the raised rates if they can show an executed purchase order or some other proof of purchase prior to the date of whatever ordinance council ultimately adopts.

Several council members said this seems only fair, and Councilwoman Nancy Whitten requested to know how many people would be in a position to use the exception.

A final, so-called "phased-in" option would put the new fees in place a little at a time over the coming months. But there seemed to be little support for that idea.

Regarding everyday park fees, most increases were much more modest than those proposed for the impact fees.

For example, the city charges $56 an hour for youth teams to use one of its artificial turf fields. The proposed increase ups that to $60. For adults looking to use turf fields, the current rate of $81.50 would go to $90. For natural fields, the proposal is to increase fees for kids from $15.50 to $17 and for adults from $25.50 to $30.

The council also is discussing changing fees for picnic shelters and facilities like Beaver Lake Lodge. The Sammamish Parks and Recreation Commission is making the initial suggestions.

In a letter to the council discussing the proposed fees, commission Chairman Hank Klein said some city facilities, like Beaver Lake Lodge, are underutilized. The commission recommends lower fees in such cases. For a weekend event, residents using the lodge currently pay $178 per hour. The proposal drops that to $140.

The council conducted a first reading of the legislation, and are scheduled to revisit the topics in November.

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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