October 21, 2011
Revising the City’s Traffic Impact Fee and redesigning the Kobayashi house were featured topics at this week’s University Place City Council meeting.
Traffic Impact Fees are one of the most controversial and misunderstood issues in our community.
Under state law, developers are required to mitigate impacts of their traffic by providing certain improvements or funding for projects such as road improvements. Cities are also required to adopt acceptable levels of service. University Place has adopted a “Level of Service D” which is the most commonly adopted level across the nation. This means that at signalized intersections, it is acceptable for motorists to experience up to a 55 second delay (on average during the evening rush hour).
In the past, our City used SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) regulations to determine when a particular development would significantly impact our service level. For example, several developers could develop new projects without paying for traffic improvements as long as their predicted amount of traffic during peak PM hours did not tip the wait time beyond the adopted level of service. However, when the next developer came along, their projected traffic would tip the scale resulting in the last developer being liable for the entire amount to improve an intersection or street. This was not only unfair to that developer but also hampered future economic development.
In order to address the inequity of this situation, the City Council adopted a traffic impact fee system several years ago to help spread the cost so that each new business or development would be assessed an amount to help pay for future projects. This amount is directly proportional to the amount of new traffic added as a result of the development.
Although the impact fee allowed several businesses and developments to move forward, many developers indicated that they felt the impact fee amount was too high, especially in consideration of the economic down-turn.
The City Council recently created a Traffic Impact Fee Task Force composed of representatives from the Planning Commission and Economic Development Commission along with input from the Master Builders Association and local businesses. (The full report is available online at www.CityofUP.com
). Recommendations presented to the Council for consideration would result in a minimum fee reduction of 20 percent with up to a 100 percent reduction for high sales tax generating uses. These recommendations include:
- Traffic Model – Adjusting the Traffic Model from six years to 10 years to update project costs, traffic growth rates and predicted impacts along with revising the Traffic Impact Fee to $3,199 per PM peak hour vehicle trip. This is a 20 percent reduction over the existing fee of $3,989. (These proposed changes were due to the economy’s impact on construction costs and property values along with a decrease in the projected annual traffic growth rate.)
- Vacancy Period – Expanding a vacancy clause from six years to 10 years to allow businesses to receive credit for traffic associated with previous non-residential uses.
- Sales Leakage Credit – Providing a 2/3 traffic credit for most retail and restaurant uses to “recapture” sales tax dollars that our residents now spend outside of our City.
- TIF Deferral – Right now, TIF is required before permit issuance. Recommendations include options to spread out fee payments including a deferral until residential occupancy; a five year payment plan; and a 50 percent sales tax credit for sales tax generating businesses. For example, if a TIF was above $10,000 and the new businesses generated $10,000 in sales tax that year, half of the City’s sales tax share collected would be deducted from the TIF due and transferred to the TIF account to pay for road improvements. This would provide an incentive for attracting sales tax generating uses along with mitigating the fee.
- Occupancy Permits – Eliminating current regulations for collecting TIF prior to occupancy. Eliminating this trigger would benefit small businesses that don’t need building permits to move into a space.
- Public Information/Marketing – Due to confusion and misconceptions about TIF in our community, the committee recommended that the City create an information and education campaign to market some of the innovative approaches U.P. is considering to create a vibrant, successful business community. (Note: U.P. is also one of the few communities that does NOT impose a local B&O tax.) Public comment and Council consideration of the TIF recommendations are scheduled for November 7. For more information, please contact City Engineer Jack Ecklund.
3rd Quarter Public Safety Report – Aggravated assaults and vehicle thefts are down in U.P., according to U.P. Police Chief Rusty Wilder.
Quarterly public safety highlights included:
- Reductions in overall aggravated assaults (58 this year compared to 67 in 2010); however, rapes increased from 6 to 12 with all but two incidents involving people known to the victims. Theft has dropped considerably from 479 last year to 363 this year. The considerable drop is primarily due to a now incarcerated vehicle prowler who averaged five incidents a day.
- Code Enforcement (such as abandoned vehicles, illegal dumping and dilapidated properties) officers investigated 53 reported violations. Although 17 were unfounded, 30 of the remaining 36 were resolved with six cases pending. Barking and loose dogs were the primary issues for our Animal Control Officers who are also responsible for code enforcement.
- Our Police Investigator worked on 41 cases dealing with search warrants, interviews and arrests, providing much needed resources to resolve ongoing cases. Federal grants, agency partnerships and our Public Safety Manager Jennifer Hales’ ongoing relationships with local apartment managers are also helping to address criminal activity along the Orchard Street corridor. Overall, there were 612 calls for service from August 10-23 keeping our officers busy.
Police Headquarters – Work is underway to complete improvements for the new Police Station on the second floor of the Civic Building. Our Police Department is scheduled to move in before the end of the year.
Other Council items included:
*Kobayashi House – Last year, a fire and mold-related damage rendered the Kobayashi House unsuitable for use. The City Council subsequently directed the Park & Recreation Commission to develop a proposal for the future of the house consistent with the adopted master site plan. Commissioner Rebecca Vader and Public Works Director Gary Cooper presented a proposal to remove a significant portion of the interior of the house while retaining primary structural beams, resulting in an open air covered shelter concept. Permanent ADA bathrooms, additional parking spaces, wheelchair accessibility to creek overlooks, and electrical strips and counter tops were among proposed amenities.
Public comment from neighbors, local teachers and the Pierce County Stream Team enthusiastically supported the proposal to provide an enhanced outdoor learning facility while preserving the natural open space. Besides providing a significant entry point to Pierce County’s Chambers Creek Properties, the proposed concept also provides better visibility for police officers as well as enhanced safety for visitors. Concerns about arson, vandalism and air quality were expressed regarding the existing fireplace; however, staff indicated steel doors could be placed on the fireplace to limit usage. Special thanks to local builder Bill Barrett and Jennifer Weddermann for volunteering construction advice and architectural renderings. The City currently has approximately $88,000 from the fire insurance settlement. As a result, Council directed staff to proceed with developing a budget and timeline to bring back to Council for further review.
In other action, the Council authorized the City Manager to enter into agreements with:
*Apex Engineering for $86,276 to conduct surveys and right of way services as required for the future design of Bridgeport Way Phase 5 from 19th Street to 27th Street. A federal grant will fund approximately 86 percent of the project while the City’s match will come from budgeted funds. After the survey is completed, an open house will be held to discuss potential plans with adjacent property owners.
*KPG consulting firm for $51,581 for survey and mapping services required to design the Mildred/67th Avenue project from 19th to Regents Boulevard. A federal highway administration grant will fund approximately 86 percent of the costs with the remainder coming from already budgeted City funds. While University Place is responsible for both sides of the road, U.P. City staff will resume meetings with the City of Fircrest to plan a public process after survey results are obtained. Since this grant is only for design purposes, a potential interlocal agreement between U.P. and Fircrest could increase the chances of obtaining future state and federal funds for constructing improvements on this road. (Note: The financial difference between the Bridgeport Way and 67th survey agreements is largely due to the greater number of property owners along Bridgeport Way.)
- World Trade Center Beam – A ceremony dedicating a beam from the World Trade Center was held earlier this week by West Pierce Fire & Rescue at the Public Safety Building. A remnant of one of the beams will serve as a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that hundreds of firefighters, police officers and citizens made during the 9/11 attack. Plans are underway to create a permanent memorial in front of the Public Safety Building.
- October 22, Parks Appreciation Day – Check out our newest park and help spruce it up from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 22. Take a tour, bring work gloves and prepare to get dirty as we clear out invasive vegetation from the Leach Creek Park, a 15-acre parcel formerly owned by the Tacoma School District. For information and directions, visit www.CityofUP.com or contact dsage@CityofUP.com or 253.460.6493.
- 3rd Annual Simple Supper to benefit the U.P. Food Bank and families in need on Saturday, October 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Curtis High School Cafeteria. Keynote speaker is David Zeeck, president and publisher of the Tacoma News Tribune. Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for kids under 18. Please RSVP to www.familiesunlimitednetwork.org or call 253.460.3134, ext. 101.
- Edgar Allan Poe (as portrayed by actor Tim Hobban) and fabric artists Helen Hein and Anne Doumit Sparks are featured in the UP for Art’s Fall Arts Series on Friday, October 28 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Civic/Library Building atrium. Free (donations appreciated). Thanks to sponsors Skelley Piano and Green Spot Teahouse. For more information, visit www.upforart.org.
- Commission Vacancies – Applications are being accepted for the Public Safety Commission (meetings 3rd Thursday at 6 p.m.); Parks & Recreation (2nd Thursday at 6:30 p.m.); and Planning (1st and 3rd Wednesday at 7 p.m.) For more information, contact the City Clerk’s office at egenetia@CityofUP.com or call 253.460-2510. Commissioners serve four-year terms and provide recommendations to Council on various issues. Please note that current commissioners are eligible to reapply for their positions.
- Holiday Volunteers and Donations Needed! – Before you know it, the holidays will be upon us. Plans are underway for transforming Homestead Park, Market Square and the City Hall complex into a festive winter wonderland and holiday areas. We need volunteers to help decorate and set up outdoor decorations and indoor rooms along with financial contributions. Please contact Marian Holloway at mholloway@CityofUP.com or 253.460.2500. Donations can also be sent to City of University Place, 3715 Bridgeport Way West, University Place 98466. Please put holiday events on the memo line.
- Duck the Halls – Start a new holiday tradition by forming a caroling group to compete in the 1st annual Duck the Halls Caroling Competition on Friday, Dec. 9, to benefit the U.P. Food Bank. Get your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers together to sing for a great cause. Groups must register by November 16. For contest rules and information, visit www.upforart.org.