Opinion

Letter from Kent Chamber of Commerce to City of Kent: Reconsider Transportation Impact Fees

The Kent Chamber of Commerce appreciates the City’s interest in receiving input regarding potential funding mechanisms for transportation improvements. We have enjoyed a continuous relationship with City of Kent officials regarding transportation projects and funding. In July of 2009, after extensive meetings with City of Kent leadership, the Kent Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter offering our review of the City of Kent’s Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) and identified those projects that we believed were the highest priority of the business community. We gave priority to those projects that addressed freight mobility and congestion issues, which directly affect retail, commercial, manufacturing and industrial enterprises. We also put forth funding mechanisms such as Local Improvement Districts (LID) and Voter Approved Levies. In this recommendation we specifically warned against Impact Fees on new development for the following reasons:

· Impact fees must be directly linked with transportation improvements necessitated by the development, and thus are not a revenue generating device that can be used to address large scale projects such as those identified as priorities for the business community.

· Our road network operates as a system, and all users benefit from system improvements. Consequently, any fee that singles out a subset of users to pay for system improvements is inequitable.

· As a region and a municipality we are facing the most profound economic crisis of the last half-century. We believe strongly that now is not the time to levy any fees on new development, as these will only serve as an impediment to desperately needed economic development in Kent.

However, The City of Kent neglected our recommendations to prioritize transportation projects and imposed a Transportation Impact Fee (TIF) with an Ordinance passed in August of 2010. The Kent Chamber of Commerce is incredibly concerned about how these fees are being implemented and the unintended consequences this ordinance has created on our business community.

Our recommendations are as follows:

· Repeal the Transportation Impact Fee on new businesses. The Kent Chamber of Commerce believes that acceptable funding is available in the form of a Transportation Impact Fee on all vehicles licensing – spreading the burden of our transportation infrastructure in an equitable way throughout our community.

· Impose fees such as Local Improvement Districts and Voter Approved Levy. While we understand the hesitation of the City of Kent to put forth a Voter Approved Levy, the Chamber commits that if the City reduces and prioritizes the project list, that we will publically support this approach with a public education campaign.

If the City of Kent must go forward on collecting current impact fees on news businesses in Kent the following recommendations are made:

· Currently, the TIF is collected all at once as an upfront cost – we feel this must be changed for the fees to be collected over multiple years. Thus, relieving start-up costs of new businesses and change of use permits.

· We fundamentally disagree with fees being imposed on vacant building we urge the city to exempt vacant buildings all together and encourage development and prevent blight in our community.

· Provide training for the City of Kent departments in correct enforcement of this ordinance. There are rumors amongst the business community that the TIF is not being enforced correctly consequently creating confusion.

o Furthermore, do a review of the permit applicants to determine if the ordinance is being correctly interpreted by staff.

o Create a public education process, including a streamlined appeal process for this ordinance.

o We request that you hold the implementation of this ordinance until the staff and public are fully educated on the ramifications of this ordinance.

· Review and strike the escalator clause built into ordinance – there is concern that this is a significant demotivator for new business.

The City of Kent transportation infrastructure is utilized by all Kent residents. However, the City of Kent is asking the business community to foot the bill for these projects. The Kent Chamber of Commerce believes this is an inequitable way to fund transportation projects and would like to know the ways the residents of Kent will also be asked to participate in the cost of these projects.

We understand that losing federal funding is at stake and that communities in our area have lost funding. However, creating a funding source that is economically devastating to Kent businesses in order to save federal funding is not conducive to the economic growth of Kent.

The Kent Chamber of Commerce strongly urges the City of Kent to repeal the Transportation Impact Fees on new business in Kent and look to the funding sources we have outlined in this letter and previous correspondence.

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