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West Linn developers must pay higher fees

Builders can't convince the Oregon Supreme Court to review its March decision.

It's official; developers must pay the increasing fees cities charge to offset the cost of growth.

Last Thursday, the Oregon Supreme Court rejected a request from developers to review a March 15 Oregon Court of Appeals decision upholding the city of West Linn's actions.

The high court's rejection was the final blow in a four-year battle, conducted for the city by Peggy Hennessy of Reeves, Kahn and Hennessy.

In 2002 after the city substantially raised one of its fees to developers, the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland and two West Linn developers - Stone Castle Homes and Matrix Development Corp. - filed a lawsuit against the higher fees. But over the past four years, the suit was struck down in a lower court as well as at the appeals court level.

'We were confident that the city's methodology was correct, but it's good to have the courts confirm it,' said City Manager Chris Jordan. 'Under this city council as well as the councils that came before, West Linn's policy has been to ensure that growth pays for as much of the impact it creates on public facilities as possible.'

The lawsuit came after system development charges (SDC) for parks were increased to $8,228 for each new single-family dwelling and $5,817 per unit in multi-family dwellings.

The city's move to increase the cost of SDCs came after analyzing in detail the expected population growth and determining how much additional land would be needed for parks and recreational uses.

The city also assesses other SDCs to offset the costs associated with increasing the capacity of certain city services such as water, streets and sewers.

The state does not allow the city or any government entity to charge SDCs to offset the cost of increasing capacity for such widely available services as schools, libraries and public safety (law enforcement and medical/fire).

The trial court upheld West Linn's methodology, but asked the city to review its policy to ensure that all of its 'open space' qualified as parks and recreation facilities. After the city finished the review, it eliminated 29 acres, and reduced its parks SDC by $199 for single-family dwellings and $140 per unit for multi-family dwellings.

Current fees include $8,029 for single-family dwellings and $5,677 per unit for multi-family dwellings.

The developers association then appealed the trial court's decision. The court of appeals (March 15) upheld the trial court and the city's methodology.

For more information on the appeals court decision, visit the Web site at www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A123168.htm