VANCOUVER — Members of the Clark County Board of Councilors voted on Tuesday to approve a resolution that modified the county fee waiver program and set deadlines for eligible projects to reach approval and construction.
In 2013, then county commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke enacted a fee waiver program that sought to boost development and the economy in Clark County by streamlining the process of obtaining building and development permits and by waiving fees associated with some non-residential development projects.
Members of the Board of Councilors voted to repeal the 2013 program last December. The current resolution places concrete deadlines on projects that fell under the Fee Waiver Program to continue receiving the benefits of the program.
According to the resolution, “Council finds that the purposes of the fee waiver resolution are not furthered unless property owners and/or project proponents diligently pursue completion of their development projects.”
Martin Snell, Clark County’s community development director, said in testimony Tuesday that there are approximately 160 active projects that still fall under the purview of the Fee Waiver Program.
The new resolution establishes milestones “for projects to continue to receive fee waivers,” Snell said.
Four progress deadlines are outlined in the resolution. Projects must file a completed application for plan approval within one year of issuance of a pre-application report.
Developers that have filed completed applications for approval must receive both preliminary and final engineering approval within 24 months.
Snell said that this provision covers both preliminary and final engineering in one deadline as there is no guarantee how long either process will take, thus the resolution focuses only on having final engineering approval complete within 24 months.
The third deadline outlined in the new resolution is that project developers must acquire building permits six months after receiving final engineering approval or within 24 months of filing a completed application for preliminary site plan approval, whichever comes later.
According to Snell, the flexible deadline allows time for complicated building projects such as hospitals to still remain eligible for fee waivers.
The resolution also stipulates that if a project developer “was acting diligently to complete the development and the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond his control,” the project will still be eligible for fee waivers.
Snell said that this could happen if a federal permit that was completed properly was delayed by the agency that required the permit.
No members of the public testified at the hearing. The resolution passed by a unanimous vote of the county council members.
Snell noted that the preliminary formulation of the resolution began in May, and its current from reflects feedback received over the summer.
“Part of the reason it took so long is because we wanted to make sure we got it right and that we respected those who were in the system and they were making progress and we didn’t hurt people along the way,” Councilor Julie Olson said.
Councilor Eileen Quiring remarked that she felt “like we’re doing the right thing.”
“I appreciate the work that’s gone into it,” Quiring said.
The full text of the new resolution can be found online on Clark County’s The Grid webpage at https://www.clark.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dept/files/the-grid/2017-09-01.pdf.