Snohomish retreats on unpaid fees, but no homeowner refunds
Snohomish homeowners won’t have to pay fees left behind by developers, but those who have already paid won’t be reimbursed.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Snohomish home owners who were battling the city over fees that should have been paid by the developer won’t have to pay the city, the Snohomish City Council has decided.
The council’s decision, made after an executive-session Tuesday, won’t help the 11 homeowners who already paid from $6,000 to $20,000 each in sewer hookup or school mitigation fees, said City Manager Larry Bauman. There are no plans to compensate them, he said. Some of those owners of the lots where fees have already been paid are the developers who were responsible for paying the fees to begin with, he said.
Others, such as Larry Thompson, paid the fees so they could either refinance or sell the property.
Thompson paid $6,000 on his widowed daughter’s behalf because she needed to quickly sell the house. The fees prevented homeowners from refinancing or selling until they were paid. Now Thompson wants to be compensated.
He is one of the homeowners who have been fighting the city since it sent out letters in April 2012, demanding residents pay the fees owed by the developer, Dynasty Homes, and giving them two weeks to make arrangements.
“At this point, we’ll track down everyone who paid ... and then the whole (fight) starts all over again,’’ Thompson said.
The city stands to lose nearly $40,000 in uncollected sewer-hook-up fees and about $72,000 in school-district mitigation fees under the plan to not go after the homeowners, said Snohomish Planning Manager Owen Dennison.
Bauman said the city will look at some way to compensate the school district for the loss. The developer, who had formed a limited liability corporation, is broke, but Bauman said the city is looking for ways to try to force him and the builder to pay.
For Jamie Kemper, who with her husband, Adam, owed $20,000, the council’s action is great news. But like the other homeowners, she believes the city should never have tried to collect from the homeowners.
The city ordinance specifically states that developers must pay the fees before building permits are issued. The homeowners insist that since the fees were built into the price of homes they purchased, asking them to pay for what the developer didn’t is asking them to pay twice.
Even though there is an ordinance, records show that the city was aware the planning department was not properly collecting fees as far back as 2005. At one time, there were nearly $500,000 in uncollected fees, the city’s records show. The fees not only help finance city services but also support the Snohomish School District.
The residents are waiting for letters from the city officially telling them they are not responsible for the fees and clearing the titles to the properties.
“I’m obviously very happy,’’ said Ric Suarez, who was billed for more than $6,000. “But they sound like they think they’re doing us a favor. It should never have happened.’’
Nancy Bartley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8522