Clark County extends development-fee holiday

Policy clarifies that it doesn't apply to residential projects

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County commissioners are extending a holiday on several county development fees for another year.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that continues the practice of reducing or removing development fees on new business construction in the county.

The extension mostly keeps the status quo in place. The county will continue to waive 50 percent of fees for commercial developments, and 100 percent of fees for non-retail developments, if the business creates 10 new full-time jobs.

The fees being waived are related to building, engineering and site planning costs on new construction. The county is also waiving or reducing traffic impact fees on the same eligible projects.

The waived planning fees will be paid out of the county's general fund, while the traffic impact fees will be paid for by the county's road fund.

'Creating jobs'

The extension introduces new language stating residential developments are not included in the fee holiday.

Marty Snell, director of community development, said the original intent of commissioners was not to include residential development. The language was added in response to a 150-unit apartment complex that applied under the fee holiday in 2012 showing it could create 10 new jobs. The development is scheduled for construction this year in the 9000 block of North Hazel Dell Avenue. Snell said that development will be grandfathered into the fee holiday as it was approved in 2012.

Commissioner David Madore has said several times in the past that he supports reducing fees, but not for high-density residential development. On Tuesday he confirmed that stance, saying he believes it "taxes that infrastructure to the max."

"The reason we are doing (this) is the intention is to encourage job growth, the places of employment," Madore said.

Commissioner Steve Stuart agreed, and before the vote he succinctly summarized the reason such a holiday was originally put in place.

"This was about creating jobs," Stuart said.

After suffering through the first few years of an economic recession, the county attempted to spur growth toward the end of 2010 by removing fees on all types of development. Between November 2010 and the end of December 2011, the county waived approximately $430,000 in fees.

Big savings

In 2012, the county extended the holiday with some additional requirements. The county waived 50 percent of fees for commercial or retail developments. It waived 100 percent of development fees for non-retail projects located in the industrial, mixed-use, business park or office campus zoning districts. Both reductions required businesses to create 15 full-time jobs.

The county modified that agreement midway through 2012 by reducing the jobs creation level to 10 full-time positions. It also added traffic impact fees to the equation. In 2012, the county waived approximately $275,000 in fees. That number may increase to nearly $365,000 if projects started in 2012 continue development in 2013.

Snell said the county currently has about $40,000 in fees to waive from developments started in the first two months of 2013.

Snell said the fee waiver has saved some developments tens of thousands of dollars.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov;erik.hidle@columbian.com.