Clark County is proposing to raise its Park Impact Fees (“PIF’s“) and if approved, it would be the first increase in 13 years. PIF’s are fees charged on construction of new residential housing to help pay for park acquisition and development. Specifically, PIFs are collected on residential development to serve future residents under the theory that growth should pay for growth. PIF’s offset the impact, or increased use that new residents will place on the park system and help ensure concurrency, a state growth planning goal. The idea behind concurrency is for roads, parks and other facilities needed to serve growth are built at the same time the growth is occurring, otherwise, the existing infrastructure is overtaxed. An excellent primer on PIF’s is provided by the County.
Parks are a great thing and usually supported, even in rough times, but the County’s proposal to increase the PIF rate is running into stiff opposition. The problem – the County let the PIF rate remain constant for 13 years and is now trying to play catch up proposing to boost the rate by 80% next year, 90% the following year, and then 100% the year after. Naturally, that dramatic price increase has the building and realtor community on edge. A summary of the dispute is provided by the Columbian.
While the opposition has a legitimate argument – the rate of increase is fantastic, this alone, is not a good basis for complaint. Nor is the argument that it will increase building costs when taken in isolation. Any challenge to the increase must look at the rate charged by other jurisdictions, primarily Washington County, Oregon, where the main growth and jobs are. Further, if PIF’s are meant to offset the impact that new residents place on parks, but they are kept at too low, existing residents will be the one paying the price. Finally, we need to ask what kind of community we want to live in and what roles parks play in that community.