Hearing on development fees silent

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home’s City Council held a public hearing Feb. 9 on a proposed a new methodology for calculating system development charges.

The methodology would allow the council to set SDCs at considerably higher rates in the future than the current SDC fees in Sweet Home.

Other than a single question submitted online, there were no comments made by members of the public.

As far as the specific value of future SDCs is concerned, the council will set those later, said Community and Economic Development Director Blair Larsen.

“We will later bring a resolution that will actually set the fees. There certainly is more time to discuss how that is going to be done,” Larsen said.

System development charges are one-time, up-front fees paid when a private individual or company builds a new development or constructs an addition to an existing development.

SDCs fund infrastructure that is vital to new development, city officials say.

Paying SDCs is “essentially a way that new development helps put in the money for infrastructure that old development has already paid for, to pay their fair share of that capacity,” said Larsen.

In Oregon, local governments are authorized to assess SDCs for five types of capital improvements: wastewater, water, transportation, stormwater and parks.

The SDCs that the City of Sweet Home charges for new development are much less than many other communities in Oregon. And the city only charges for two of the aforementioned five capital improvements. Most Oregon cities have SDCs for all five systems.

“The SDCs that we’ve been charging are roughly $1,800, and it’s only to water and wastewater. And those have been in place for the last 20 years. That’s a pretty low amount, and that’s not even covering transportation, parks or stormwater,” Larsen said.

For comparison, Lebanon’s SDCs are around $13,000 for a single-family home.

Speaking on how Sweet Home’s SDCs compare to other communities in Oregon, Councilor Dave Trask said “we’ve been really, really bad behind. I mean, just awful.”

Larsen emphasized the importance of SDCs for the community, noting how a shortage in SDC funds can curb development.

“You can’t build a single-family home in Lebanon right now, because they don’t have the sewer capacity,” he said. “They’re overdue on that infrastructure. We don’t want to be in that situation.”

At the council meeting following the public hearing, the board voted on a number of appointments to local board and commission positions.

Mayor Greg Mahler and councilors Susan Coleman, Diane Gerson, Dylan Richardson and Angelita Sanchez also attended the Jan. 26 meeting.

Councilor Lisa Gourley was not present as she was attending to a personal matter.

Councilors voted unanimously to appoint Jamie Frick to the Library Advisory Board for a four-year term.

Frick has lived in the area for a decade. She is an avid reader and views the library as an essential part of the community and an important place for recreation, community activities, and a resource for expanding perspectives. She is currently pursuing a career as a librarian and is enrolled in an online graduate program working toward a master’s degree in library and information science.

The council also voted unanimously to appoint Eva Jurney and Jamie Melcher to the Planning Commission for four-year terms.

Jurney has served on the Planning Commission since October 2011. She is retired from a 38-year career as a nurse manager, educator and nurse practitioner.

Melcher, a local real estate agent, is new to the commission. She worked from December 1999 to February 2014 as a staff member for Lebanon’s city Economic and Community Development Department.

Councilors also voted 5-1, with Richardson dissenting, to appoint former City Council member and Planning Commission member James Goble to a seat on the Planning Commission. Goble served on the commission from May 2013 to April 2016, before serving four years on the council.