Parks and their impact fee are good for county and quality of life

By Dennis Townsend
The recent piece regarding Pierce County parks impact fees (Opinion, Jan. 18) by County Council member Jim McCune left out some relevant information.
It is true that we are one of the fastest-growing areas in the state, and as a result of the county’s long-term neglect in addressing public facilities, we have fallen behind in basic public services such as roads, schools and parks.  We see it every day when we drive (slowly) to work, portables spring up at schools, and search for public recreation areas to enjoy with our families.  The last major public facility constructed in our district was a landfill.  Impact fees are tied to new development, and are a relevant way to fund capital growth and improvements, without burdening existing homeowners who already chip in with property and fuel taxes for operations.
The county has an inventory of park lands, but they have not been improved or developed, since the original impact fee, unchanged in nearly 20 years, was inadequate for making those improvements. A working group, convened by the council and made up of representatives of homebuilders, realtors, parks, land-use, recreation and environmental concerns, met throughout the year to come up with a plan to address this equitably and presented it to the council, which, including affirmative votes from conservative council members Dan Roach and Joyce McDonald, approved the ordinance 6-1.
The data regarding housing affordability from NAHB, a development and homebuilding interest, is debatable as presented with impact fees as a singular cause; housing availability is more affected by inventory, market prices and financing requirements, which were tightened after the housing bubble burst in 2008. The impact fee, after phase-in, will remain static and provide stability along with its targeted use; any further action would require a council vote, which is unlikely for some time due to the extensive legwork made by the working group. The fee will still be below the median when compared to other jurisdictions in western Washington. With quality parks, roads and infrastructure, housing values will rise and make homeownership advantageous, with increases in equity.
Pierce County Parks and Recreation will now get a foothold in improving and expanding parks, trails and recreation facilities, including Sprinker Center, Frontier Park and the planned Stan and Joan Cross Park in Frederickson (all in, or adjacent to, our council district). Go to the Pierce County website ( “Parks” link and explore the proposed plan for our parks.
Access to, and the benefits of parks do not end at a council district boundary. As our county grows, these facilities will be a fundamental asset to our quality of life.

Dennis Townsend lives in Spanaway. He was a candidate in the 2016 election for County Council, losing to Jim McCune.


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