Council revises SDCs that pay for transportation improvements

The Hood River City Council moved ahead Monday with approval of a plan amending its system development charges for transportation impacts.

The council entered the meeting looking at three options for how best to assess the charges, which are typically incurred through development.

At its Feb. 11 meeting the council had considered the option of assessing a system development charge for each change in use. However the council got bogged down in how would a change in use, or whether that use had a larger impact than the previous tenant of the building, be determined.

System development charges are typically assessed on new construction or uses to offset the cost of increased impact on city infrastructure.

City staff presented the council with two separate options to consider at its Feb. 25 meeting: only pursue system development charges for use changes when the city becomes aware of a change or require a review when a building either expands or has a use change.

The council quickly began to gravitate toward the second option.

“I don’t like creating the impression that we have the discretion to look the other way,” said Mayor Arthur Babitz.

City Manager Bob Francis acknowledged that the second option would likely be “complaint driven” and rely upon neighbors to make the city aware of use changes which may exceed the previous use.

Council member Mark Zanmiller added he was uncomfortable with a system which may lead to them discovering use changes while he “walked by on the way to lunch.”

Francis also said the option would require a significant devotion of time and resources by city staff as those uses would require a “compliance review.” The proposed language would have have made it a violation for an owner or tenant to change the use of the parcel or building without first getting a use determination from city staff.

The system that the city ultimately decided upon would require a plan review whenever a business changes use or expands, but would not necessarily mandate a new system development charge.

According to the language approved by the council, if the “proposed use results in a greater demand or impact on a city capitol improvement system … the applicant shall pay the difference between the SDC rate ascribed to the previous use and the calculated SDC attributable to the proposed use.”

“If you need some sort of permit it triggers the process,” Francis added after the meeting.

If the use is deemed to have a greater impact on the transportation system than the prior occupant, it would trigger an additional transportation system development charge. Otherwise no additional charge would be assessed.

The code change received its first reading by title only at the Feb. 25 meeting and will receive its second at the March 11 city council meeting.

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