Letter to the Editor: Impose Impact Fees to Protect Winlock Residents From Carrying Tax Burden for Growth

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Citizens of Winlock: Your local government is doling out huge, big-dollar handouts to fat-cat out-of-town investors — and you are footing the bill!

With the rise in new construction, Winlock Fire (Lewis County Fire District 15) is feeling the impact with a rise in emergency calls. More Firefighters and EMTs must be on staff to keep up with the increased demand if Winlock residents expect Fire District 15 to maintain the level of service they've become accustomed to.

These problems could be resolved by charging impact fees, as other small communities throughout the state already do, ending the handouts. The right to charge impact fees is a state law.

With new multi-story, huge warehouse structures, large apartment buildings and mega churches, Fire District 15 will require a new multi-million-dollar ladder truck and on the east of the tracks a new multi-million-dollar firehouse to store the ladder truck.

More tax increases are not the answer. Raising property taxes to keep pace with explosive growth is unsustainable; it's completely unfair to burden existing Winlock residents with more tax increases.

Impact fees are only assessed on new projects that are directly responsible for the rise in public safety costs. Impact fees will help to pay for increased public safety costs: fire stations, fire apparatus and equipment; pretty much everything required to provide an effective level of public safety that Winlock residents expect and deserve.

Why aren't Fire District 15 and the City of Winlock charging impact fees on new construction? Impact fees would allow Winlock to offset some of the cost of additional police vehicles, equipment and more. Using Kent's 2021 impact fee schedule as an example, this is what Winlock’s handout package looks like: Bellevue-based Benaroya Company’s 5 million square-foot warehouse times $1.19 square foot equals $5,950,000,000. New homes times $4,938 equals $2,467,500. The new 38,000 square-foot megachurch times $1.88 a square foot equals $71,440.

Forget that $8.5 million that could have been collected — like water under a bridge, it's gone forever. Recent passage of Fire District 15's latest levy lid lift is just the beginning, unless Winlock’s local government takes the bull by the horns and goes back to charging impact fees — a proven, sound business strategy, helping to ensure a financially stable, healthy Winlock.

As it stands, public safety will be at risk. More and more tax increases on Winlock residents for the benefit of out-of-town, fat-cat investors is not the way to “grow” Winlock. If you don't like this scenario, voice your thoughts and concerns with your Fire District 15 and Lewis County commissioners as well as your Winlock mayor and council.

 

Eric Bernard

K & E Tree Farm, Winlock