It’s worth a try

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Washington’s decision to temporarily waive some impact fees to try to stimulate residential growth in the city is commendable.

It’s no secret that residential growth in the city is almost nonexistent. The city’s population has been near the 10,000 mark for many years. Providing, if only for six months, an incentive to increase residential growth — the building of new single-family residences — makes sense. If nothing else, the city’s effort to increase residential growth indicates city leaders are aware of that issue and addressing it.

Under the proposal submitted by City Manager Bobby Roberson, the city’s water and sewer impact fees will be waived for six months beginning July 1 and ending Dec. 31. Waiving those fees would save someone building a residence $920, according to the proposal. Currently, the Public Works Department charges impact fees for water and sewer taps. The impact fee for a residential water tap is $332. The impact fee for a residential sewer tap is $588.

There were some concerns about waiving those impact fees. Councilman Doug Mercer voiced his worry that the city could lose a significant amount of revenue by implementing the six-month suspension.

“My concern … is if you’re talking a single lot on Ninth Street, Main Street or wherever, that’s one thing, but if someone comes along with a 30-lot subdivision — a completely open field — you’re talking a substantial amount of revenue we’re not going to be getting,” Mercer expounded. “That revenue is reserved for future improvements to the system. Like I say, a single lot does not bother me, but a subdivision of 10, 20 or 30 houses is a major concern for me.”

Mercer recognized that waiving those fees could be a double-edged sword. While new residences in the city would generate additional property taxes and revenue from the use of utilities, too many waivers could substantially reduce revenue generated by impact fees.

To avoid that possibility, Mercer recommended that an approved subdivision “of not more than five (new houses) would be exempted from the tap fees, but more than five would pay all fees.” That proposal received support from the entire council.

The hope is the strategy will result in more residential growth. The city could use more single-family houses and the revenue they produce.