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Yakima County raises land use fees considerably

YAKIMA - Since 1990, when land-use processing fees in Yakima County were last set, there have been a number of new regulations developed that lengthen the application review process.

That's according to Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott, who yesterday (Tuesday) with his two fellow commissioners approved an increase in land-use fees.

Elliott and commissioners Mike Leita and Kevin Bouchey unanimously agreed to increases in the fees because, said Elliott, it has been determined the county's general fund was being used to cover a large portion of the land-use application review process.

With the increase in fees, developers will be helping to pay those costs, said Elliott.

He said commissioners approved fee increases totaling 85 percent of the proposal pitched to them by county staff. Elliott said the commissioners will revisit the ordinance in September to determine if the fees are enough or not.

"The job of reviewing applications has grown exponentially...since 1990 we have had the development of the growth management act, stormwater and critical areas ordinance, the endangered species act and the shoreline management ordinance," said Elliott.

Last year, the county's general fund contributed more than $1 million to the Yakima County Planning Division for the purpose of reviewing and processing land-use permits.

Developers last year paid just $150,000 in fees, according to officials.

The planning division reported that approximately 40 percent of staff time was spent on processing the permits.

Although the commissioners agreed that the fee increases for land-use applications were necessary, they decided to approve the fees at 85 percent of what was proposed.

They made the decision during a special meeting following a public hearing. During the public hearing a number of representatives ranging from architects to developers and surveyors provided input on the proposed fees, stating there was a need for updating the fees. However, they believed the proposed fees needed further consideration.

For example, the fees for developing a short plat, fewer than four lots, would have increased by more than $1,200 if the proposal had been approved as originally written. The approved fees for a short plat will now increase from $460 to $1,479.

The Yakima County commissioners approved the land-use ordinance (9-2012) by a vote of 3-0.

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