Snoqualmie City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution That Imposes Tripled Impact Fee On New Homes As Builders Ask Them To Reconsider

At its April 23rd meeting, the Snoqualmie City Council voted unanimously to pass the Snoqualmie Valley School District’s 2011 Capital Facility Plan (CFP) and a resolution that officially imposes a tripled impact fee on new homes built within the Snoqualmie city limits.  The 2012 impact fee is not retroactive. The City of Snoqualmie will begin collecting the $8500 fee the second week of May.  The North Bend City Council also passed the plan and resolution at their April 3rd meeting allowing it to collect the new fee in late April.

Snoqualmie’s passage puts to rest a year-long impact fee debate between the city and the Snoqualmie Valley School District.  The debate stemmed from the impact fee tripling during the housing recession, questions surrounding growth projections used to calculate the district’s impact fee and numerous bond failures that impede SVSD from securing needed funded for the school building projects contained within the plan.  The higher fee will be added to the price of news homes this month, creating worry with builders that the home price increase will stall the recovering Snoqualmie Valley housing market.

Representatives from the Master Builders Association, Quadrant and Pulte Homes testified at the April 23rd meeting.  They asked the council to reconsider tripling the fee and questioned many of the assumptions and growth projections in the 2011 SVSD Captial Facilities Plan.  Pulte Homes was particularly concerned that they were never consulted by the school district when the it was building the CFP growth projections, especially given the profound changes in the housing market.

SVSD ultimately agreed to fully indemnify North Bend and Snoqualmie as originally requested last year.  In exchange, the district requested a clause that required the city to “approve/accept” their future Capital Facilities Plans and impact fee within 45 days of it being submitted.  Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson said approving such an action would have been illegal, explaining the current council and administration cannot bind a future council to future legislative decisions.  The council could not adopt a resolution with language that required them to “approve/accept” every plan.  Subsequently, the city opted for the resolution language “consider” and “act upon.”

The final agreed upon language which the council passed is as follows:

“The City shall consider and act upon the District’s updated Capital Facilities Plan and the proposed impact fee schedule for the District as set forth in that Plan, all within ninety (90) days of the District providing its updated Capital Facilities Plan to the City.” 

Yearly Snoqualmie Valley School District Capital Facilities Plans and impact fees are typically submitted to the cities of North Bend and Snoqualmie each June or July.  The cities do not set the impact fee, only act as a collection agents for SVSD and King County.  Out of concern that builders may challenge the legality of the tripled fee or the collection of it before school bonds are passed to secure the remaining construction funding, North Bend and Snoqualmie requested full indemnification from potential builder lawsuits.

When asked if Snoqualmie is one of the few cities to ever question a school district about its Capital Facilities Plan and/or size of its impact fees, Mayor Larson said that ” many cities have questioned such fees.”  If Snoqualmie does have questions about future CFP and impact fees, language now included in the interlocal agreement states,  “In no event shall the City unilaterally change or amend the CFP.”

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