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Jan. 16, 2022

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Clark County Council hikes traffic impact fees, lifts urban holding

Steps clear way for 179th/I-5 projects

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:

The Clark County Council raised traffic impact fees and lifted roughly 2,200 acres of land from urban holding designation in a largely rural area north of Vancouver around 179th Street.

Both steps taken Tuesday will further make way for future development at the interchange.

Councilors passed the fees on developers for new construction throughout the county to help fund infrastructure improvements near the 179 Street/Interstate 5 interchange and west and south of the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds.

The increases — ranging from $75 to $325 per single-family unit — will be implemented in four traffic impact fee districts. Fees will rise in Hazel Dell from $382 to $517 per unit; in Mount Vista, from $605 to $930 per unit; in Orchards, from $354 to $428 per unit; and in rural areas, from $298 to $412 per unit. The Mount Vista area will have one of the highest traffic impact fees in the state.

Urban holding overlay designations are intended to prevent development and land division in areas within urban growth boundaries that aren’t able to support growth. Overlays were applied to the area in 2004 and 2007.

When the Legislature in 2016 allocated $50 million in the 2023-2025 biennium budget for development in the area, infrastructure projects became more appetizing. Reluctant to wait several years, the county has since opted to request smaller — but faster — payouts from the state.

On Aug. 21, the county council voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution that outlines how to pay for $66.5 million in improvements as part of a public-private partnership. Under the plan, developers would pay $26.6 million. The plan also calls for $14.5 million in traffic impact fees.

Agreements with four developers call for more than 1,000 housing units and a commercial center. Building out all the land that was in urban holding will produce 5,650 housing units, 7,670 jobs and $34 million annually in local and state tax revenue, according to an economic study commissioned by the county.

“I’m so happy that you’re finally moving forward with this,” Jim Carlson, a 179th Street resident in Ridgefield, said during Tuesday’s public hearing. “This is going to be beautiful. It really is.”

A majority of the council agreed, but the optimistic outlook was not unanimous. Echoing comments that she made when voting against the funding plan, Councilor Temple Lentz said she wasn’t sold that the project is risk-free.

Lentz mentioned Gov. Jay Inslee’s directive to the Washington State Department of Transportation to postpone projects not yet underway. The directive came the day after passage of Initiative 976, which will cut car tabs to $30 and rescind additional transportation charges enacted by local governments.

“I am very concerned about the feasibility of this project,” Lentz said.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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