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Spokane City Council passes higher impact fees on new development

A street in the Grandview neighborhood.
Rebecca White
A street in the Grandview neighborhood. Those in the neighborhood say they're missing key infrastructure and have called for higher fees on new development.

The Spokane City Council has adopted a new schedule of traffic and water impact fees. Those are the costs developers pay to cover the strain their projects add to the area’s infrastructure.

The city decided to revamp its fees after residents in the Latah Valley arearaised concerns about new housing going in despite lagging infrastructure. The new fees are designed to cover the cost of additional cars on the road, and sewer, and water hookups.

Those fees have not been increased for more than twenty years and city staff say they have struggled to fund needed water projects.

Developers, builders and realtors such as Spokane Association of Realtors President Tom Hormel, opposed the sewer and water impact fees. He said it would make it impossible for the industry to respond to the area’s housing crisis.

“The money you think you will raise will be greatly diminished by the number of builders, and developers who will choose to build elsewhere, and you will lose hundreds of homes and apartments,” he said.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs also said the fees will mostly make developing in areas without services expensive. Developers that agree to build low-income housing, or build in areas with existing infrastructure, will pay less.

“It's really only in those places on the far out, where we have so much work to do, and that's why it’s expensive, because people are developing in areas where it’s not really ready to do yet,” he said. “Typically, great cities build from the center out. As they build out, they build infrastructure, and it’s not that expensive to go the next quarter mile, or half mile, and it makes sense. Otherwise, other people have to subsidize that.”

Spokane city council members say they do plan to come back and make final adjustments to the fees in two weeks in hopes of addressing concerns from developers, and two conservative council members who opposed the water, and sewer increases.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.