Battle Ground Council considers increase to fire impact fee

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The city of Battle Ground may see an increase in its fire impact fees on new construction, though unincorporated parts of Clark County Fire District 3 have yet to pay comparable rates.

During a Nov. 15 meeting, the Battle Ground City Council hosted a public hearing on FD3’s capital facilities plan and a potential increase to fire impact fees. The meeting was the second time the council has discussed an update of the plan, which details expected capital projects in the next two decades.

During a Nov. 1 presentation, FD3 Fire Marshal Chris Drone said the district anticipates to grow by 46% in the next 20 years. That growth projection is used to determine costs from impact fees, which led to the proposal of an increase. 

The plan update included fees for the city at $696 per single-family home, $327 per multi-family unit, and 85 cents per square foot of non-residential space. The city’s impact fees have remained the same since 2018, Drone said. At that time, they were set for $555 per single-family home, $248 per multi-family unit and 59 cents per square foot for non-residential buildings.

Capital costs in the next 20 years totaled $22.6 million with about $10.4 million attributed to the new growth, Drone said. Projects include two new fire stations, a training tower, an ambulance, a pumper truck and several squad and staff vehicles, according to the presentation.

Based on response data, about half of the calls the district receives include responses to single-family homes, while 41% of calls are for commercial properties and the remainder are to multi-family residences. Medical calls made up nearly 80% of the district’s calls.

The increase would keep the fire district’s share of impact fees lower than others for traffic, parks and schools, Drone explained, only making up 5% of those kinds of fees for single family home construction within city limits.

The city itself represents two-thirds of the residential growth anticipated in the district and 92% of commercial development. Though the district would like to see impact fees in unincorporated parts of its jurisdiction, Fire Chief Scott Sorenson said the Clark County Council denied the impact fees for unincorporated areas in the district because they didn’t want to impose more fees and also because they didn’t want to see a district with fees, while others go without.

“We’ve always believed … new growth pays for growth,” said Deputy Mayor Philip Johnson. “It doesn’t seem very fair to ask all those folks who have been here for years to pitch in their part for the new folks who are coming.”

Currently, the city has impact fees and Sorenson said the revenues would only be used within city limits.

As of the Nov. 15 public hearing, Sorenson said his department had not made headway with the county on letting impact fees in unincorporated parts of the county. He said FD3 is working with other districts in the county to share their plan for the request.

“This time we’re working with other agencies to do that (request) together,” Sorenson said.

Speaking on behalf of the Building Industry Association of Clark County, Justin Wood pushed back on the increase given the state of housing prices in the county.

Every impact fee that this council adopts is passed onto each homeowner or renter at the time when we are facing a housing affordability crisis,” Wood said.

Wood said most homes are being built in the southern United States because of more lax regulations. He said the council should consider a reduction in the multi-family fire impact fee proposed since it only made up 8% of calls, while the non-residential rate should increase.

Johnson said the request “seems to be a small amount of money in the big scheme of things.”

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