Developer fee to pay for parks?
Developers would have to contribute money for parks and public open space for the first time in Seattle under a proposal announced yesterday...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Developers would have to contribute money for parks and public open space for the first time in Seattle under a proposal announced yesterday by Mayor Greg Nickels.
Nickels wants to impose "impact fees," common in other Washington cities, as a way to "make growth pay for growth," said Nickels' spokesman Marty McOmber.
The mayor's plan would apply only to the city's most crowded neighborhoods. It represents an effort to balance Nickels' development agenda in the city's six designated urban centers, where city leaders hope to funnel future growth.
Nickels, who is running for re-election this year, will not send legislation to the City Council until next year. But McOmber said Nickels wants to start talking about impact fees now because they're linked to his "center city" strategy to allow taller buildings in neighborhoods in and near downtown.
Developers now are required to provide open space in new projects — but that space is on-site, geared to tenants, and does not have to be public. It often takes the form of rooftop decks and plazas.
In rough terms, Nickels is looking at charging developers $1 to $2 per square foot on new projects, McOmber said, with the money set aside to acquire and develop new parks. City planners project that center-city neighborhoods will need 12.3 acres of additional open space to balance population growth expected to occur by 2024.
The fees would apply to residential, commercial and office projects in all six urban centers: Uptown, South Lake Union, downtown, Capitol Hill/First Hill, the University District and Northgate.
City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck said the timing of Nickels' announcement was curious.
Chairman of the council's land-use committee, Steinbrueck has questioned Nickels' center-city strategy, which is modeled partly on planning goals in Vancouver, B.C.
Steinbrueck has hired two Vancouver planners as consultants to analyze the mayor's plan. The two planners are scheduled to make recommendations to the council Monday. He said the consultants have pointed out a lack of downtown open space.
"I'm very pleased," Steinbrueck said. "My Vancouver consultants already are having an impact."
McOmber disagreed. "This is not a response [to Steinbrueck]. This has been in the works for a while," he said.
The mayor hopes to raise about $57 million through impact fees, McOmber said, enough to buy about half of the desired open space. City leaders would have to figure out how to raise the money needed to buy the rest and maintain all of it.
Seattle has struggled in recent years to fund park maintenance. Steinbrueck said the city might find money for new parks by renewing the $198 million parks levy voters approved in 2000.
Some prominent developers were not aware of the mayor's proposal yesterday. Lyn Tangen, a vice president at Vulcan, which owns 60 acres in South Lake Union, said she would not comment on the plan until she saw more specifics.
"It's long overdue," said John Barber, a citizen advocate for open spaces. "I think it's moving in the right direction, but we don't have a lot of details and I'm not sure it's directed at projects that neighborhoods have already designated for open space."
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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