After more than a year of study, the Pierce County Council on Tuesday approved a new park impact fee that will raise an estimated $51 million over the next 15 years to expand and improve the county’s park and trail system.
Only District 3 Councilman Jim McCune, who said the new fee won’t have enough benefit for his district, voted against the measure. McCune, a Republican, represents southeast and south central Pierce County.
The new fee, which will be levied on new home and apartment construction, raises Pierce County’s park impact fees from the lowest in the state to near the state average.
Pierce County has been charging a $385 park impact fee for some two decades. The larger impact charge will be phased in beginning in May, when it will increase to $1,107. The fee will reach $2,552 in July 2018.
According to a list of projects proposed by an advisory committee, the new money will allow the county to develop several tracts it has owned for years but had no money to improve. The money also will allow the county’s parks department to expand a growing network of hiking and walking trails.
The impact fee proposal enjoyed a broad spectrum of support from several elements of the community ranging from environmental groups to developers and the real estate industry. Catherine Rudolph, government affairs director for the Tacoma Pierce County Association of Realtors, said, as Pierce County “rolls up to a million people,” new parks are needed to keep pace with the population growth.
Scott Jones — vice president of Newland Communities, developer of the county’s largest residential tract, Tehaleh — told the council that Newland supports the additional fee. But, he noted, adding costs to new homes will make them unaffordable to more families. For every $1,000 increase in a home’s cost, 600 more Pierce County families are priced out of the market, he said.
Councilman Derek Young said the planned improvements that will be funded by the increase are “pretty well spread out.” The county impact fee funds will be passed along to, not only the county’s own park operation, but to smaller independent park districts.