Development Fee Waivers in Clark County

11/19/2010: Recently, the Board of Commissioners adopted a “fee holiday” resolution, intended to encourage certain types of development in unincorporated Clark County to help stimulate job growth. This resolution waives fees for preliminary site plan review, development engineering plan review, building inspection, and fire marshal. (Transportation impact fees have not been waived, since amendments to the County’s comprehensive plan and appropriate capital facilities plan would be required to waive those fees.)

Clark County’s “fee holiday” resolution is intended to stimulate private-sector jobs, in industrial, mixed-use, business-park, commercial, and office zones. More specifically, the resolution is targeted toward:

  • Businesses that engage in taxable retail activity;
  • Focus public investment areas;
  • Land adjacent to the Chelatchie Prairie rail line so long as it is used for rail businesses; and
  • Certain NAICS classifications.

The fee holiday is in effect from October 2010 through December 2011 and requires that all certificates of occupancy be issued no later than December 13, 2015, for projects to obtain fee waivers.

Clark County hopes the fee waiver will attract those projects that are ready to go and will be assisted financially by the fee waiver, as well as projects drawn to the community because of the fee waiver.

Fee waivers are not available for government projects or nonprofit entities.

The fee waivers apply to development in the following Focused Public Investment Areas:

  • Highway 99
  • Salmon Creek Research Park (Washington State University industrial park)
  • The Discovery Corridor
  • Barberton/St. John’s area
  • Northeast 117th Avenue

These areas are zoned for either commercial or industrial use that will provide jobs for the community.

A project receiving a fee waiver must obtain its first building inspection approval no later than June 30, 2012. The failure to do so will result in all waived fees due and owing to Clark County with a 12 percent compounded interest rate. The fee-waiver program terminates on December 30, 2011.

Will the Fee Waiver Work to Generate Jobs in Clark County?

The Board of County Commissioners’ adoption of the fee-waiver proposal is an effort to provide real incentives for job-creating commercial and industrial development. Perhaps even more importantly, it signals that Clark County is “open for business” and willing to do what it takes to create jobs for our community. The real question is how helpful the fee waiver will be in creating jobs.

Clark County commercial construction (industrial, office, and warehouse) has fallen dramatically year over year, with only 7 building permits issued for new projects in October compared with 13 permits handed out in the same month a year ago. Thirteen permits were also issued for smaller projects. The October 2010 permits are valued at $316,000, compared to October 2009 permits, which were valued at over $3,000,000. Notwithstanding October’s decline, overall commercial permit value has increased 45.4 percent year to date this year over 2009.

Other factors will affect the positive impact of the ability of fee waivers for job-creating development projects:

  • Financing remains relatively unavailable for commercial/industrial projects;
  • Land values are constrained by prices that have bottomed out and are not increasing; and
  • Construction costs remain low.

Kudos to Clark County for doing what it can to stimulate job growth in the community. It is unfortunate that so many factors are pushing against this new opportunity.