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City equity buy-in fees at issue

Talk continues on ordinance revisions

— What’s a good compromise to give the city and prospective developers each what they need? That focus framed discussion at last week’s Grangeville City Council meeting where options were discussed in ongoing plans to rework the municipal subdivision ordinance.

In January, the council raised issue with updating city subdivision codes, which have gone largely unchanged for decades, that due to existing regulations and associated fees may have a negative effect on development of new commercial properties.

A large part of discussion at the March 6 meeting were equity buy-in fees, established in 2005, that are charged to new developments that do not have existing services; these are $1,540 for water and $2,860 for sewer. Fees are dedicated toward utility system upgrades and expansions, and how these are charged is based on equivalent residence (ER) for the development in question. For example, a new single family home (at one ER) could be charged with one buy-in fee, and a new 10-unit apartment complex (at 10 ERs) would be charged a fee for each unit.

Mayor Bruce Walker put the fees in perspective as an assessment for those who had not contributed to past system maintenance and improvements, funds that are set aside toward future expansion projects. He acknowledged there may be issues with the existing fee schedules, and the city doesn’t want to stymie growth due to buy-in fees.

“But look at other cities our size and less,” he said, “and they’re charging as much or even more. So, I don’t think we’re really out of line with these fees.”

City public works director Jeff McFrederick raised modifying the ER for residential developments, such as reclassifying apartment complexes at a half-ER – and so halve fees— to reflect the individual unit on average has less occupancy and utility usage than a four-bedroom home. To encourage developers, McFrederick suggested a deferral payment for buy-in fees, rather than requiring the whole payment up front.

“I think you’re on the right track,” commented Grangeville businessman Ted Lindsley, who also owns several apartment complexes in town. He raised a long-discussed local concern on difficulties for business recruitment due to the lack of available housing, which is stymied due to regulations and fees that discourage developers – a continuous circle that stymies growth.

“It’s time to do something, kick the ice off this to get something to happen,” Lindsley said.

Noting this as an ongoing refining process, McFrederick said he expected to be addressing this in subsequent council meetings – “We’ll keep discussing it and keep refining it,” he said – in conjunction with “continued conversations with the business community.”


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