Council to hear LCAH request to waive SDCs

The Sweet Home City Council asked that Linn County Affordable Housing (LCAH) appear in January with its request to waive systems development charges (SDC) on its 1998 Ames Creek Court development.

LCAH has paid some $16,000 in SDCs but owes some $32,000 still on the project. LCAH points to its development of 18th Avenue between Long and Fir streets as an offset for the SDCs. The development of the road was not required as a condition on the permit for the development, but LCAH voluntarily included the improvement of the road in its development plan.

“When I first brought up this business,” Councilman Robert G. Danielson said. “I asked whether or not the fees had been waived. The city manager (Craig Martin) said, yes, the fees had been waived” because of the spur developed on 18th Avenue.

Danielson pointed to a discrepancy in the city manager bringing smaller waiver requests, such as one early last month by East Linn Museum and one last week by Habitat for Humanity but not bringing Ames Creek Court’s SDCs to the city council. Those requests were for waivers on building and Public Works permit fees. Habitat for Humanity’s waiver request was for $1,243.

Finance Director told Danielson that the Ames Creek Court SDCs were not waived but were in “negotiations.”

The bill for the SDCs was submitted to LCAH more than two years ago. Martin told The New Era previously that he had intended to bring the request before the city council but the agenda was heavy at the time. He said the issue fell off of his radar.

Danielson said he did not like being kept in the dark.

“He has an obligation to bring these things to Council,” Danielson said. “He doesn’t have unlimited authority.”

If the fees were not waived, Danielson asked why they had not been collected yet and why negotiate because the fee schedule is written in black and white.

Martin said that LCAH is not under the impression that the fees were waived nor was he.

In his mind, Martin said, he questions whether he would have the authority to waive those fees, but he does believe the value of the street improvements offsets the SDCs owed. LCAH simply wants to appear before the city council and get it resolved.

“If there’s a question whether I or the council have to do it,” Martin said. “I defer to the City Council.”

The issue should have come to city council, Martin said. “I’m not debating that. I never had.”

City Attorney Robert Snyder told the council that whether the city manager could waive the fees was not black and white.

The ordinance requires the city manager to collect SDCs, which does not mean that he is the person actually holding his hand out for the money but indicates the city manager has some ability to make decisions in that area, Snyder said. “There’s some arguments on the other side that it should come to council.”

Ordinance language also speaks to credits given to developers for offsite development, but those are typically for similar infrastructure improvements, such as water lines for water system development charges, Snyder said.

“They took it upon themselves to do it,” Danielson said. “We don’t owe them anything.… If there’s any negotiating, it because weakness on the part of the city.”

“The city got over $36,000 worth of infrastructure and improvements,” Snyder said of the street, which LCAH estimates a value of more than $50,000. The city did ask, but 18th Avenue was a voluntary item. “The city’s been benefited more than it cost.”

“Tell them they owe it and they pay it,” Danielson said. “If they don’t, then we don’t issue another building permit.”

Craig Fentiman moved to consider the charges in January. The council approved the motion 6-1 with Jim Bean dissenting. Present at the meeting, were Fentiman, Bean, Danielson, Bob McIntire, Jim Gourley, Mayor Tim McQueary and Dick Hill.