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Cities reject county request to withhold building permits

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | August 1, 2023 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Kootenai County has asked 12 cities to withhold building permits for new construction unless the cities receive proof of payment for proposed county impact fees supporting the sheriff’s office, jail and parks and waterways.

Some cities have balked at the proposal, calling it unfair to their residents and possibly unlawful.

Commissioners Leslie Duncan, Bruce Mattare and Bill Brooks made the request in a dozen letters sent to area mayors.

“Instead of collecting and disbursing impact fees for Kootenai County at the point of the building permit, the cities would instead only require proof that the applicant has paid the necessary impact fees to Kootenai County before issuing a building permit,” commissioners said in the letter, dated May 30.

Brooks said the commissioners’ intent is to have new residents pay their fair share for growth.

“If you want nice parks and police protection, then it costs money and it’s not fair to ask the people who live here to pay for the people who are coming here,” he said Monday.

The fees proposed by the county assume the collection of sheriff’s office impact fees “proportional to the degree to which each city relies on KCSO’s services for law enforcement and dispatch services,” according to the county.

Impact fees for the jail, as well as parks and waterways, would be collected from growth in the unincorporated areas and all incorporated cities.

The proposed fees are as follows:

• $2,195 per residential unit or 58 cents per non-residential square foot for all growth except Coeur d’Alene, Hayden Lake, Post Falls, Rathdrum and Spirit Lake

• $1,337 per residential unit or 28 cents per non-residential square foot for growth in Coeur d’Alene, Hayden Lake and Spirit Lake

• $1,160 per residential unit or 25 cents per non-residential square foot for growth in Post Falls and Rathdrum

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond said it’s inequitable to require new Coeur d’Alene residents to fund construction of both city and county park facilities while new residents in unincorporated parts of the county don’t contribute to the costs of city park facilities they may also use.

“Coeur d’Alene has its own police department and should not be responsible for funding the sheriff’s office,” Hammond said in a letter to the county. “Likewise, we have our own parks and waterways.”

Post Falls Mayor Ron Jacobson and Rathdrum Mayor Vic Holmes expressed a similar sentiment in a joint response to the county.

“Any proposed solution to collecting impact fees for county park facilities must treat residents equally regardless of whether they live in a city or in unincorporated areas of the county,” the mayors wrote. “We are open to discussing options to accomplish that, but the current proposal is unfair to our residents.”

Brooks said he believes cities should contribute to any resources they use.

“We should figure out an equitable way they can contribute,” he said. “Kootenai County is a community and we need to start doing it as a community and stop pissing and moaning with each other.”

Idaho law allows for governmental entities that are jointly affected by development to enter into agreements with each other for the purpose of collecting and expending development impact fees.

For example, the county and cities recently agreed to collect impact fees on behalf of fire districts and emergency medical services.

“The reason we’re doing it for the fire districts is because they don’t have ordinance authority, so they need a jurisdiction with authority like the city or the county to adopt an ordinance to collect those fees,” said Field Herrington, deputy city attorney for Post Falls.

It’s unclear what authority the county has to impose impact fees on cities.

“Their ordinances don’t apply within city limits or vice versa,” said Warren Wilson, Post Falls Legal Services Director.

Idaho Code also stipulates that a development impact fee may be collected “no earlier than the commencement of construction … or the issuance of a building permit or a manufactured home installation permit or as may be agreed by the developer and the governmental entity.”

Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Rathdrum have indicated a willingness to collect impact fees for the jail, which is used by all municipalities. The latter two cities have asked the county to first “explain the causal link between the type of growth that’s occurring and the need for additional jail beds.”

Brooks said he dislikes the idea of cities picking and choosing which fees to collect.

“Impact fees are not really a cafeteria type of arrangement where everybody gets to pick a little of this and a little of that,” he said. “It would just make a mess of it.”

Hammond also noted the county has continued to withhold late charges and interest on past due taxes that would normally go to the taxing districts, though a judge recently ordered Kootenai County to distribute the funds.

Kootenai County Treasurer Steve Matheson indicated earlier this month that he may seek to appeal the ruling or have it reconsidered.

“Coeur d’Alene is willing, in principle, to discuss an agreement to collect certain impact fees on behalf of the county,” Hammond said.

But any agreement will depend on the county accepting the court’s decision on late charges and interest and turning over the funds, “without an attempt, directly or indirectly, to obtain a different result in the Legislature.”

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Hammond

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Jacobson

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Vic Holmes