Poorly Timed Arrival for Seattle’s Long-Awaited Transportation Fee

The Seat­tle City Coun­cil is con­sid­er­ing trans­porta­tion impact fees for in the city.

Report­ing for The Urban­ist, Ryan Pack­er shares the back­ground on a years-long process of explor­ing a new trans­porta­tion impact fee, which has recent­ly yield­ed a poten­tial project list before the City Coun­cil for con­sid­er­a­tion.

Notably, Seat­tle has no exist­ing impact fee—for trans­porta­tion, pro­tec­tion, nor schools— most cities in Wash­ing­ton State, accord­ing to Pack­er. Hence the cities ongo­ing efforts, dat­ing back to 2014, to imple­ment an impact fee.

There’s one big catch, how­ev­er, to the of adding a charge on new res­i­den­tial or com­mer­cial con­struc­tion to help fund infra­struc­ture improve­ments: At the moment impact fees are under con­sid­er­a­tion by the City Coun­cil, “the City of Seat­tle is fac­ing a rev­enue fore­cast that shows mul­ti­fam­i­ly con­struc­tion slow­ing sig­nif­i­cant­ly, prompt­ing the ques­tion of whether the tim­ing is right to add yet anoth­er bar­ri­er onto the con­struc­tion of new hous­ing,” writes Pack­er.

The impact fee is cur­rent­ly held up by chal­lenges to the Deter­mi­na­tion of Non-Sig­nif­i­cance (DNS) required by the Wash­ing­ton State Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act (SEPA).

“Until that appeal is resolved (a hear­ing is now sched­uled for late May), Seat­tle can­not move beyond the ini­tial rate study for impact fees, which includes a poten­tial ceil­ing for the fee. Only cer­tain trans­porta­tion projects are eli­gi­ble to be fund­ed by impact fees, and often only cer­tain ele­ments of those projects as well,” reports Pack­er.

Impact fees are fre­quent­ly pro­voke oppo­si­tion from devel­op­ers and YIM­BYs for cre­at­ing anoth­er for devel­op­ment projects. A lot more detail about the pol­i­tics and poten­tial con­se­quences of the impact fee can be found at the below.

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