City’s transportation SDCs rising sharply

Workers smooth a new sidewalk on Talmadge Road built during the summer. The project was paid in part by Monmouth’s transportation system development charges.

RUSS COOPER, city of Monmouth/for the Itemizer-Observer
Workers smooth a new sidewalk on Talmadge Road built during the summer. The project was paid in part by Monmouth’s transportation system development charges.

MONMOUTH — Mayor John Oberst cast the deciding vote to move forward with increasing transportation System Development Charges in the city of Monmouth by 740 percent for new single-family homes.

For a single family home, the charges will go from $402 to $3,378. It puts Monmouth’s transportation SDCs as the most expensive in the county for a single-family home.

SDCs are only charged to new structures, not to existing buildings.

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Monmouth City Council

One of the major factors in the split vote was the timing. Some councilors wanted to implement the increase all at once beginning Jan. 1, 2015, while others wanted to phase it in over a two-year period, with 50 percent in January 2015, and the remaining 50 percent in January 2016.

Councilman Marshall Guthrie voted “no” because he wanted to have more time to discuss the issue with affected parties.

The phased-in approach is what was approved at the Oct. 21 council meeting.

The increases to transportation SDCs come after analyzing the methodology for calculating the charges. John Ghilarducci of the FCS Group presented how he came up with the new charges and what the money may be used for.

“It starts with a list of the projects,” he said. The projects must be specific to transportation improvements. Fees are related to those projects and the growth that those projects will create, he explained.

Projects include installing bike lanes and sidewalks on Hoffman Road, building Ash Creek Trail, full street improvements on West Church Street, extension of streets, and installing traffic signals and turn lanes along Highway 99W.

To finish all the projects on the transportation system list, it would cost $55 million, Ghilarducci said. Transportation SDCs may pay $8.7 million of that total. Only projects that increase the capacity to serve growth are eligible for SDC money.

Also taken into account is the “average daily person trips,” which includes any trip a human makes, whether by vehicle, by foot or by bicycle.

Previously, fees were tied strictly to vehicular movement, but this limited the number of pedestrian and bicycle improvements that could be paid for with transportation SDCs, Ghilarducci said.

Western Oregon University will also see an increase in the fees, and it will be calculated differently than the rest of town, he said.

At WOU, the fees are calculated using the number of enrolled students and the total square footage available.

Tom Neal, physical plant director at WOU, said the university took exception to the way the new fee system was developed.

“We’ve reduced impacts,” he said. “The university is a separate beast here in the city.”

Buildings have been taken down, Neal said. Other projects, such as the new College of Education building due to start construction soon, is not intended to house any new students, teachers or staff. Enrollment has been largely flat for the last few years.

Oberst said the fees were meant to plan long term, through 2030.

“But we’re paying large amounts now for an unknown, a best guest,” Neal said.

Fees at the college will increase from 81 percent to 194 percent, depending on the structure. Previously, fees were calculated for WOU based on the type of structure being built. Under the new methodology, all structures — even a shed, City Manager Scott McClure said — will be charged equally.

When WOU built Ackerman Hall, for example, the transportation SDCs were $62,712. Under the new methodology, a similar structure would cost $184,372 in fees.

McClure recommended the council pass the fee structure all at once, or with no longer than six months between a phase one and phase two, because of timing.

“With the phasing, depending on how you (decide), this isn’t just a few houses here and there,” he said. “There’s a big building coming up. Depending on where you drop the line depends on how we collect on the (WOU) College of Education (building).”

The final changes to the Transportation SDCs will be presented and voted on at the council’s Nov. 4 meeting.

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