Changing fee collection could spur development

A city official’s suggestion that the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District reexamine its collection of system development charges to encourage development in central Beaverton will need further study and discussion.

That’s the conclusion of the district’s board president Joe Blowers and Don Mazziotti, the city of Beaverton’s economic and community development director, after the latter’s presentation at the board’s Monday night meeting.

During an overview of redevelopment plans for the city’s central district he presented to the board, Mazziotti noted that companies looking to buy property and invest in the area are somewhat hamstrung by the requirement to pay systems development charges in one lump sum. Developers in municipalities and special service districts are charged a one-time fee for construction projects to offset use of public services such as utilities, parks and recreational facilities.

In the case of the park district, the development charges, or SDCs, are often used as fuel to develop new greenspace and park-like amenities to accommodate the needs of new residents, employees and business owners resulting from construction projects.

Mazziotti suggested the charges be phased in, rather than collected in a lump sum to lessen developers’ financial burden, particularly in economically fallow sections of the central city.

With impetus from a $1 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city is developing a master plan for a Creekside District geared toward revitalizing property bound by Canyon Road, Beaverton Creek and Hall Boulevard and Cedar Hills Boulevard.

“Beaverton needs the tools to assemble (land) parcels, remove barriers and make site readiness timely and highly responsive,” he said, noting revenue limitations in sections of the city. “Right now, if you’re a developer in the central district, if (SDC charges) hit you in the face from day one, it’s very, very difficult, given the current rent level in Beaverton, for those developers to proceed.”

He suggested further discussions between city staff and park district officials to find common ground on how the charges could be administered in a mutually beneficial way.

“I’d like to suggest our staffs work together to figure something out,” he said.

While the board fully supports the city’s redevelopment plans, changing the way systems development charges are assessed would require a detailed proposal from the city and in-depth discussion from the board, Blowers said.

“That’s asking us to make a pretty big sacrifice now,” he said on Tuesday. “Those SDCs are our way to keep from getting behind on parks and recreation projects as new development happens. If we are not collecting money on the SDCs, by definition we are getting behind. It gets us far behind on our goals to the citizens and compromises our ability to support the city. I don’t want to get in a position where we get behind on either.”

Noting the district’s support of city initiatives such as the enterprise zone and urban renewal district, which voters passed by a large margin in 2012, Blowers said the board would exercise caution in any proposal that further defers revenue for district projects.

“The urban renewal plan at its core is a property tax deferment,” he said of the 30-year plan to reinvest property taxes in designated areas. “That’s deferring new taxes you would’ve paid the park district, and it’s not going away for 30 years. At its most basic level, the way we’re really on board with (city redevelopment) is by supporting that.”

Blowers said he will wait for a more formal proposal from Mazziotti’s office before drawing any conclusions on the suggestion to change the approach to collecting development charges.

“In general, I think we support all the city’s goals,” Blowers said. “A vibrant downtown Beaverton with creeks going through it and stream-side passways with pedestrians going through that. Who wouldn’t like that? It would do wonders for the city’s bottom line as well as ours.”

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