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"What price growth...?"

Impact fees don't cover all costs

To letter writer Jim Weston, I would say yes, development may help local economies. Yes, empty offices or warehouses may attract businesses, creating jobs. Yes, impact fees may transfer to home and business buyers. And many citizens haven't checked out the true costs of growth.

But wait, are developers the driving force that creates jobs? Really?

Economists know jobs, which should originate within the community and not be imported using tax subsidies, create demand for new properties. And yes, developers respond to demand "for pro fit" It's certainly not because they want livable communities. How many trees were left when bulldozers left Tumwater Hill? What flooding? Whose economy really benefited?

If impact fees covered true costs, we'd have a fiscally responsible, businesslike government and fair taxation.

What? Yes, developers will pass impact fee costs on. But who's not going to buy a house because impact fees increase monthly mortgage payments from $1,000 to $1,030, or 0.3 percent? And why should a $6,000 impact fee increase a property's price $12,000? Who benefits from that arithmetic?

True costs of growth? Please. Last year citizens learned from the 1997 "Costs of Growth" forum that each new three-bedroom home costs the government $15,000 to $25,000 for roads, schools, sewers, etc. Developers usually pay 10 percent while current taxpayers pay 90 percent.

Citizens learned recently that they pay $600 to $1,200 each year for regional infrastructure that serves newcomers. Citizens struggled for this information, while developers fought disclosure.

If "development (actually) pays for itself many times over the burden it creates," as Weston claims, then developers should agree to report true benefits and costs for each project when submitting their plans and SEPA checklist to local planners.

Tom Gries/Olympia


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