In a significant win for OMB, Lewis County adopted an impact fee ordinance that will apply only to one specific development in the county. The ordinance is a good compromise that allows a development to move forward without burdening the rest of the county with impact fees. The commissioners and staff did their homework, and were very responsive to OMB’s concerns. This issue dates back nearly ten years.
Several years ago, the county commissioners approved an application for a Fully Contained Community (FCC) called Birchfield. Unfortunately, state law requires a county to establish impact fees as a condition of approval of a FCC. Wanting to allow the development to go forward, the county thought that they would have to impose impact fees throughout the county to comply with state law.
In 2012, the county reluctantly proposed a countywide impact fee ordinance, which was predictably met with stiff opposition from OMB’s Lewis County members. An organized effort by OMB successfully beat back the countywide ordinance, and the county went back to the drawing board.
In late 2014, county staff approached OMB with a new impact fee ordinance that would apply only to the Birchfield FCC itself. A few members and I met with county staff in October to discuss a draft of the ordinance and air our concerns. The staff explained the legal basis for the new ordinance and allowed us to make suggestions. I worked further with staff to clarify language as it related to school impact fees to be sure that school districts would not be allowed to impose fees outside the FCC.
The Board of County Commissioners held a public hearing on December 8, and adopted the new ordinance immediately afterward. The compromise is a win for everyone involved, and it would not have happened without significant contributions from Lewis County members.