Washington City Council split but ultimately approve hike in impact fees

WASHINGTON CITY — After months of discussion and with some trepidation, the Washington City Council passed an increase in impact fees to fund parks and recreational facilities.

The Washington City Council, Washington City, Utah, Aug. 14, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Originally set to vote on the city’s parks and recreational master plan and associated impact fee schedule in late October, the council tabled the measure instead due to wanting more information

Currently, the city’s recreation-related impact fees are $3,700. In order to maintain the level of service the city provides residents, those fees would need to be raised to $6,300.

Any increase in impact fees has been protested by local builders, like the Southern Utah Home Builders Association, which noted Washington City already has some of the highest overall impact fees in the county.

Mari Krashowetz, SUHBA executive officer, previously stated that impact fees in Washington City are over $20,000, considering the various other impact fees the city currently imposes on new construction, plus those added by the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

Impact fees are attached to new construction and are a collection of various fees covering the cost of future city infrastructure to accommodate growth, such as future fire stations and sewer systems. In the case of parks and recreation, those fees are applied to future parks, trails and other recreational pursuits.

New construction going in at the Sienna Hills development in Washington City, Utah, Oct. 21, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, ST. George News

Impact fees have been used to build the new Shooting Star Park in Washington Fields and incoming Canyons Park and Hellhole Trailhead.

The council voted to table adoption of the master plan and revised fees in October due to not having a clear picture of what current and future projects could be funded at the current rate or an increased one. City staff and engineers working on the plan were to return with more precise options as requested by the council.

Two options the City Council settled on included increasing the recreation impact fees between $4,550 and $4,800.

The first option included the ability to continue funding current and future projects like the Canyons Park and Hellhole Trailhead, Shooting Star Park, the Boilers/Warm Springs park, the first phase of the Washington Fields Park Complex, a half-mile’s worth of trails and associated debt services.

These projects would be covered by the $4,550 increase.

Volunteers, members of city staff and their families help out at a service project for an incoming “skills and challenge park” by the Canyons Park and Hell Hole Trailhead set to open in Washington City in late November, Washington City, Utah, Oct. 21, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The second option included all of those projects, plus the construction of the Mill Creek Trailhead Park, which bumps the proposed recreation impact fees to $4,800.

“I’m very uncomfortable with the level of our cumulative impact fees, and I think this is too big a jump for that,” Councilwoman Kolene Granger said.

Granger has long been an advocate for parks and trails in Washington City yet said she wouldn’t vote to hike the impact fees. She also said she didn’t believe the RAP tax funding the city receives was factored into the plan and expressed regret the city hadn’t aggressively applied for RAP tax funding from the county for projects.

Councilman Troy Belliston also said it was a bigger jump than he wanted to see yet appreciated the new plan and that fees were now tied back to specific projects.

“It’s unconformable to improve any increase in any impact fees whatsoever,” he said, “but we also have a level of service and benefit to the community we need to be able to maintain, understanding that the new growth is what pays for these parks, but the parks also benefit old and new growth.”

Council members Belliston, Jeff Turek and Daniel Cluff voted in favor of adopting the new master plan and fees, while Granger and Doug Ward voted against it.

The fee increase takes effect 90 days from Nov. 13.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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