VANCOUVER, WA-Clark County and the City of Vancouver are beginning to hold public hearings for a proposed increase in the fees developers must pay to mitigate the traffic their projects will generate over a 20-year period. Commercial and retail developments would see the highest increase under the proposal. As an example, the agencies are saying that the developer of a 3,000-square-foot fast-food restaurant in South County that currently pays $11,327 would pay $117,655 under the new proposal, and the developer of a 50,000-sf office building in downtown Vancouver that currently pays $8,808 would pay $119,237 under the new proposal. Costs in other areas would go down, but only slightly.

Evan Dust, Clark County’s senior transportation planner and project manager with regard to the traffic impact fee update, says the increases are due in part to a phasing out of “substantial” fee reductions that previously were given to retail developers. “My sense was those reductions were wrong,” Dust tells GlobeSt. “We used to adjust downward for trip lengths, but what we’ve found is no support for such a reduction, that it was artificial in nature and that uses that generate trips entirely within one sub area should pay the full amount of the fees. The proposed changes represent a more realistic picture of the costs.”

Clark County and the city of Vancouver jointly administer the traffic impact fee program. The two use different formulas to calculate the amount developers are charged, but in addition to the fee increase are proposing to make their formulas identical. Clark County commissioners are holding a hearing on the issue tonight. It begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Hazel Dell Sewer District conference room, 8000 N.E. 52nd Court. Even if the county approves the increase, the city council will hold its own public hearing before approving similar changes.

Dust says the county recently began receiving correspondence by retail developers wanting more time to study the changes and comment on them. “I had initial (fee increase) numbers that looked worse than this that were available (a while ago) and nobody seemed to pay attention to those,” Dust tells GlobeSt. “Now that the board is going to take action, suddenly people want to delay the process.”

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