The Phil Johnson Ballfields in Everett, next to a large piece of undeveloped property that was the formerly the cement company CEMEX. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Phil Johnson Ballfields in Everett, next to a large piece of undeveloped property that was the formerly the cement company CEMEX. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett considers fees on new construction to fund parks, trails

City leaders are weighing a parks impact fee to build more recreation space as the population increases.

EVERETT — Fees on new construction could preserve open space and fund new parks in Everett, starting as soon as Jan. 1.

Impact fees are one-time charges on new development that pay for expanded services.

If approved by the Everett City Council, that money would fund construction of paths, trails, dog parks, neighborhood parks and stormwater parks across the city. Everett maintains over 920 acres of parks and open space, plus 27 miles of paths.

But the city is bracing for another 55,000 residents by 2035 and wants to provide adequate, accessible parks and recreation as it grows. To do so, it needs millions of dollars for capital projects.

City staff have worked with the parks board and planning commission for months to craft a proposal presented to the Everett City Council on Wednesday night.

“I think it’s very important for the city of Everett to embark on park impact fees,” planning commissioner Michael Zelinski said Oct. 19.

Everett’s proposed charge is $941 per bedroom, or for commercial spaces, a sliding rate based on square footage.

The council is slated to vote on the park impact fee Nov. 17.

Early drafts for Everett included an exemption for low-income housing.

“We have needs in the parks world, we have needs in the affordable housing world,” Everett planning director Yorik Stevens-Wajda said Oct. 19. “This fee waiver is a way to try to help out our housing needs.”

But the planning commission scrapped the affordable housing piece in a 4-3 vote in October.

“It strikes me that the users of affordable housing, the residents, would be using parks just as much as any office user, potentially more,” planning commissioner Michael Finch said last month.

Despite narrow votes on amendments, and adjustments to the timeline to phase in the fee, all seven planning commissioners voted to recommend the parks impact fee to the council.

Counties and cities throughout the state use them for fire protection, parks, roads and schools. Generally that money must be spent within 10 years.

Lake Stevens’ parks impact fee is tied solely to housing. Single-family residences have the highest cost of $4,155 per bedroom. Multi-family buildings with three or more units pay $3,005 per bedroom.

Mountlake Terrace has fees for commercial and residential development. Single-family homes, including townhomes, pay the most at $3,240 per bedroom. Accessory dwelling units and multi-family is $2,342 per bedroom. Commercial space is charged $1,204 per 1,000 square feet.

When The Station apartments got their permit, the developer paid the city $348,558 in park impact fees a few years ago, according to city records. It accounted for more than half of the total fees assessed to the development by Mountlake Terrace.

Everett’s parks fee would be shared across commercial and home construction, according to city documents.

Commercial buildings’ per square-feet rate would vary depending on the use: $0.21 for industrial, $0.26 for office and services, or $0.38 for retail.

New housing would pay $941 per one-bedroom or studio, capping at three times the cost for three bedrooms or more.

Colleges, schools and government facilities would be exempt. Early learning facilities are eligible for a reduced fee or waived entirely if 25% of the children and families using it qualify for state subsidized child care.

Everett had over 105,000 bedrooms, according to a draft fee rate study by BERK Consulting that analyzed Census data. More than 111,000 people live in the city, according to U.S. Census data.

City Council President Brenda Stonecipher said comparisons to Auburn and Kent as cities of similar size to Everett would be better than looking to Snohomish County neighbors.

Both have higher fees than what’s proposed for Everett.

Auburn, with a population over 81,000, has a similar parks inventory to Everett at over 900 acres.

Since 2017, Auburn has charged $3,500 per bedroom for its park impact fee. Those fees brought in $112,000 in 2019 and were estimated at $200,000 last year, according to Auburn’s biennial budget. Park impact fees were projected for $158,500 this year and $127,800 next year in the document.

Kent’s over 132,000 residents are served by over 1,000 acres of parks and open space. In March, the Kent City Council adopted a park impact fee that applies to commercial and residential development. A single-family home would be charged $3,281 per bedroom and multifamily $2,451. Commercial development rates vary by use from $0.01 per square foot for mini storage facilities to $0.37 per square foot for retail and $1.30 per square foot for restaurant construction.

Stonecipher said she worried about starting with fees so much lower than other cities compared to Everett.

If the council approves it, the fee would take effect Jan. 1.

Initially, full fees were scheduled to be in place within a year of council adoption. But the planning commission voted 4-3 to extend it to 18 months.

Projects with building permits nine months prior would be exempt from the fees. Developments with building permits between nine months before, and up to 18 months after, would have the parks impact fee cut in half.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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