Growth pays for growth…or does it?

By Christie Malchow
Mayor, City of Sammamish
Guest Op-ed

We often hear this term, ๐ ๐ซ๐จ๐ฐ๐ญ๐ก ๐ฉ๐š๐ฒ๐ฌ ๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ ๐ ๐ซ๐จ๐ฐ๐ญ๐ก. But does it?

It doesnโ€™t in the absolute sense. Actually, state law prevents it from paying its full impact, leaving the balance of the burden to existing taxpayers to fill the void.

Mayor Malchow

The term “growth pays for growth” is one I wish politicians and others would stop using, because it implies somehow that incoming development will somehow make everything fine and there won’t be a burden on existing property owners.

New development (residential) pays impact fees in the form of park impact fees, traffic impact fees, and school impact fees. These impact fees have strict regulations on their use by the agency that collects them. Impact fees are governed by the Growth Management Act and are only charged to new rอŸeอŸsอŸiอŸdอŸeอŸnอŸtอŸiอŸaอŸlอŸ development.

๐‘ฐ๐’Ž๐’‘๐’‚๐’„๐’• ๐’‡๐’†๐’†๐’”, ๐’ƒ๐’š ๐’๐’‚๐’˜, ๐’„๐’‚๐’๐’๐’๐’• ๐’ƒ๐’† ๐’–๐’”๐’†๐’… ๐’‚๐’” ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’”๐’๐’๐’† ๐’”๐’๐’–๐’“๐’„๐’† ๐’๐’‡ ๐’‡๐’–๐’๐’…๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’๐’‡ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’”๐’š๐’”๐’•๐’†๐’Ž ๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’—๐’†๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’•๐’” ๐’๐’†๐’†๐’…๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’ ๐’”๐’†๐’“๐’—๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’๐’†๐’˜ ๐’…๐’†๐’—๐’†๐’๐’๐’‘๐’Ž๐’†๐’๐’•.

So let’s dive into some numbers.

On December 31, 2018, #Sammamish had exactly $9,798,129 in traffic impact fees. In terms of an infrastructure project, those impact fees don’t go very far and not every project is eligible to use impact fees. By law, a project cannot use 100% impact fees either.

In 2018, construction of SE 4th used $2,436,234 in impact fees, but the project’s total cost (adopted on our 2020 Transportation Improvement Plan) is slated to be $20,930,000. The City did get a $5M TIB [state] grant, leaving the taxpayer contribution to be $13,493,766. That equates to ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ’% ๐’๐’‡ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’‹๐’†๐’„๐’• ๐’‡๐’–๐’๐’…๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‡๐’“๐’๐’Ž ๐’•๐’‚๐’™๐’‘๐’‚๐’š๐’†๐’“๐’”. The City will likely be able to recollect some of the $13M as development comes in (for frontage improvements – ie. sidewalk, curb, gutter, bike lanes), but this demonstrates growth doesn’t cover the cost of growth, and not even most of the cost.

If we look at schools, the districts use a complex formula to determine what dollar figure is used as an “impact fee.” This is long, but keep reading…

The Lake Washington School District calculated the cost per seat for a new 690 student elementary school to be $45,376/seat. They multiply the cost per seat by the student generation rate (# of students from a new development) to find the proportionate impact of a single family house (SFR).


$45,376 x 0.426 (K-5 generation rate) = $19,784/SFR

Then calculate the impact for growth projects at each grade level:

Total Cost per SFR for all grades = $36,300/house

The LWSD got a credit for state matching of $4,835 & estimated taxes that new homeowner will pay toward school construction bond ($7,878)

๐…๐ข๐ง๐š๐ฅ ๐œ๐š๐ฅ๐œ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐š๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐ข๐ฆ๐ฉ๐š๐œ๐ญ ๐Ÿ๐ž๐ž:
$๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ•,๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŽ๐ŸŽ – $๐Ÿ’,๐Ÿ–๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ“ (๐ฌ๐ญ๐š๐ญ๐ž ๐ฆ๐š๐ญ๐œ๐ก) – $๐Ÿ•,๐Ÿ–๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ– (๐ญ๐š๐ฑ๐ž๐ฌ) – $๐Ÿ๐Ÿ’,๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ–๐Ÿ•

But there’s more, because King County requires a 50% reduction of that impact fee, so ๐š๐š‘๐šŽ ๐š—๐šŽ๐š  ๐šœ๐š’๐š—๐š๐š•๐šŽ ๐š๐šŠ๐š–๐š’๐š•๐šข ๐š‘๐š˜๐š–๐šŽ ๐š ๐š’๐š•๐š• ๐š™๐šŠ๐šข $๐Ÿท๐Ÿธ,๐Ÿธ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿบ ๐š•๐šŽ๐šŠ๐šŸ๐š’๐š—๐š ๐š๐š‘๐šŽ ๐š˜๐š๐š‘๐šŽ๐š› ๐Ÿป0% ๐š˜๐š ๐š๐š‘๐šŽ ๐š’๐š–๐š™๐šŠ๐šŒ๐š ๐š๐š˜ ๐šŽ๐šก๐š’๐šœ๐š๐š’๐š—๐š ๐š๐šŠ๐šก๐š™๐šŠ๐šข๐šŽ๐š›๐šœ ๐š๐š˜ ๐š๐šž๐š—๐š.

So growth pays for some of the growth, but it certainly doesn’t pay the full ride and thus, the old adage “growth pays for growth” is really a misleading phrase that shouldn’t be used, or at the very least more accurately stated as:

G๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘กโ„Ž ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘ฆ๐‘  ๐‘“๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘  ๐‘“๐‘ข๐‘™๐‘™ ๐‘–๐‘š๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘ก.

Get real time updates to your email when news are posted. Your email will not be shared with third parties

Join 1,267 other followers


4 thoughts on “Growth pays for growth…or does it?

  1. Good article but what is the Long Term Plan for the City of Sammamish? Over the last 20 years it seems like we are trying to stop the bus and it is running us over! Mayor Malchow do you have a plan going forward to make up for all the insufficient planning and the short term approach occurring since the City was incorporated? We know we are in a bad situation, but is there a plan to fix the situation we are in? 2 years ago we we started down a path of “well first we need to stop the bleeding” mentality and it seems to me we are going to be stuck in this mentality indefinitely unless we identify a path forward and work to correct our problems. I would encourage the City to come up with some solutions to our Traffic / Growth problems and identify a path forward. Please do another Op-Ed looking forward for the next 20 years outlying a plan you would like to see instituted to fix our current inefficiencies and also deal with future growth.

  2. Thanks for the explanation mayor Christie. Perhaps the new saying should be Growth SHOULD pay for growth. Why aren’t we tripling and quadrupling the traffic, school and park impact fees on new residences? We need a new high school like, yesterday. Both IHS and SHS are 50% over capacity. You mentioned the GMA governs how the impact fees could be spent, but does it also determine how much we could charge? We need to do both: quadruple the impact fees and reinstate a moratorium over all new constructions in Sammamish until the infrastructure catches up. And no more grandfathering either. There’s been too much of that.

    Btw what is going on with the Town Center plan? Are we now to allow it after a rogue city employee approved it without any oversight? Where is the city manager in this? Perhaps his role should be examined as well. We can’t afford to let this go forward or downtown will be impossible to access for those who can’t walk there. And if the YMCA gets anymore crowded, no one will be able to use it.

    I think it’s time all the residents of King County bend together and sue the state over GMA’s government overreach. This nightmare law is an infringement on civil liberty, a tyrannical oppression of the people pure and simple.

    • Hi Long Time Resident, I hope you don’t mind but I took your question, “Why arenโ€™t we tripling and quadrupling the traffic, school and park impact fees on new residences?” and posted it as a question for Candidates to opine on in the Vote Sammamish page on Facebook, of which I am a co-moderator. And if anyone would like to join Vote Sammamish, please do! It is open to all Sammamish residents, regardless of whether one can vote or not. Its primary goal is information sharing and engaging with Candidates and Electeds (we try!). https://www.facebook.com/groups/3351334434892309/

      • Not at all. Please do. As I am not on Facebook I won’t be able to see the responses. Would be great if you could post their responses here. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s