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  • Kirk Kirkland

Pierce County considers increase to Parks Impact Fees

Negotiations are underway at Pierce County Park Department to increase Park Impact Fees. On a list of fees collected, Pierce County current amount is $385.00 among the lowest in the region. The national average is $2774, compatible with Puyallup ($2300) and Edgewood ($2940) and Snohomish County ($2889). But when Bonney Lake raised its fee to $2974, the number of building permits dropped dramatically. Bonney Lake is one of the two fastest growing areas of the county where builders feel the fee is prohibitive.

The negotiations between builders, realtors and park advocates has taken two months. Discussions the focus on calculating the fee, and where to spend the total $58 million on existing parks and trails.

The calculated fee of $2552 would maintain the current level of service for parks. The new fee represent the cost to prevent overcrowding at boat launches, sport courts and regional trails as the county population reaches one million people.

The increase fee is a large increase from the previous $385 fee. At the same time impact fees for sewer and roads is also being negotiated with the builders. The combined fees could limit amount of new homes to only a few cities in the county like Sumner, Tacoma, Buckley and Orting, which have limited capacity and charge under $1000 for park impacts.

Democracy works best when the public pays attention. A good turn out at the county council hearing will insure that a deal made by interest groups will serve the public desire for parks to keep pace with suburban growth.

In the 2016 county budget, Builders paid a fee that was 3% of total revenues needed to operate Park. Since 2007 the County’s General Fund support for county parks has declined while other county department’s funding has recovered.

In making a plea to county officials to collect the full amount of the calculated fee, trail advocates should highlight the importance of trails — then suggest that road and other impact fees could accept less increase until the county parks budget has an opportunity to be on par with other departments

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