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County business leaders push for traffic fee hike reprieve

A no-go? - Due to the economic downturn, Washington County committee members are doubtful a transportation fee increase would pass muster this year

With a recession looming nationally and trickling down locally, area business leaders and industry representatives continue to push for a temporary reprieve from increased traffic impact fees.

On Monday, members of the Washington County Coordinating Committee heard continuing concerns about the amount of proposed raises in traffic impact fees, which are charged to developers when a new building is constructed.

County leaders had first considered putting the fee increase question to voters in the May election, but backed off when business leaders balked.

Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake said he was doubtful the county could pass the measure at all this year. Business leaders also questioned the timing of implementing the new charges as well.

Jonathan Schlueter, executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance, told the committee that Washington County economic indicators aren't positive at the moment, saying that residential homebuilding has declined sharply this year.

One of the biggest concerns among county business leaders has been the amount of the proposed traffic impact fees which, by one proposal, would have jumped 14-fold for such projects as fast food restaurants.

Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers on Monday polled mayors and councilors to determine whether their cities had plans to put their own type of system development charges into place before the county could act.

A consensus showed most were willing to wait.

Cornelius City Councilor Jeff Dalin said voters need to weigh in on such charges.

'Citizens are excited about getting some streets repaved,' he said. 'We're getting down to the gravel.'

Though a restructuring of the fee is out, the coordinating committee agreed to move forward with a six percent annual increase of the TIF, a measure sent to the Washington County Board of Commissioners for approval Tuesday night.

That's the maximum annual increase allowed under state law without having to approach voters.