Friday, October 30, 2020
Oct. 30, 2020

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Council approves new funding path for county trails

Ordinance makes two changes that are not expected to increase fees

By , Columbian political reporter

The Clark County Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance intended to boost funding for trails.

The county requires developers to pay one-time charges on construction projects that are used to fund the development of parks and open spaces. Although trails are popular, and a 2015 county survey found them to be in high demand, park impact fees previously couldn’t be used to build them.

In December, the county council considered an ordinance that would allow park impact fees to be used for trails, but councilors balked at the prospect that it would end up increasing fees. The ordinance would have followed an increase in park impact fees that vary by lot or unit, as well as housing type, that was approved by the council in 2016.

The proposed 2018 ordinance would have increased park impact fees by altering the formula used to determine them. According to county figures from 2018, the average park impact fee rate for a multifamily project would increase from $3,182 to $3,314.

The new ordinance makes two changes to the county code that are not expected to increase fees. It adds a definition of “recreational facilities” that includes any facility that provides indoor and/or outdoor activities for physical, nonphysical and/or cultural activities. The ordinance also redefines trails as recreational facilities, which allows park impact fees to be used for trails.

During the Tuesday morning meeting, Kelsey Potter, Clark County Parks Advisory Board co-chair, spoke in favor of the ordinance, telling the council that her board frequently hears from members of the public who want more trails.

“I’m really excited about the possibility this could present,” she said.

Ryan Makinster, government affairs coordinator for the Building Industry Association of Clark County, said his group supports the ordinance. He thanked the county for listening to his group’s concerns — which were previously expressed over the increase of fees — and the efforts of staff.

Councilor Julie Olson, who “enthusiastically” moved to approve the ordinance, said the county has a little more than 46 miles of trails and more than 100 planned.

“This is going to help us get to some of that,” Olson said.

The ordinance passed unanimously.

Rural industrial land bank

The county council also extended a moratorium on development within the rural industrial land bank. The council passed a similar emergency moratorium in December, and the new ordinance, which passed unanimously, will last for six months.

For years, the county has been seeking to rezone 600 acres of farmland in the Brush Prairie area for industrial purposes. The county included the rezoning as part of its update to its comprehensive plan passed in 2016. But the Growth Management Hearings Board, a quasi-judicial land-use panel, ruled that the rural industrial land bank violated state land-use law. The county has appealed the decision.

“There is little practical change,” Civil Deputy Prosecutor Chris Cook said. “But it does show that the county is serious about complying with Growth Management Act while we vigorously defend our action at the (Washington) Court of Appeals.”

Council Chair Eileen Quiring said the county hasn’t received any applications, noting that developers are reluctant to pursue projects under such uncertain circumstances.