Potential downtown tenants get break on fees

February 23, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

City Council members last week extended a break on city fees to merchants who open businesses in downtown Issaquah.

The council agreed to continue a year-old measure to exempt businesses from the city transportation impact fee for the first 10,000 square feet of floor area. City Council members delayed the termination date until March 1, 2011. The council approved the measure in a 6-0 vote Feb. 16, with Councilwoman Maureen McCarry absent.

Concerned about the effect of the transportation impact fee and the recession on businesses, the council rolled back the fee last year, until March 2010. Officials intended for the measure to be temporary, but the weak economy and requests from business groups, like the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce and the DownTown Issaquah Association, prompted the extension.

The city earmarked $1.58 million set aside for the defunct Southeast Bypass project to offset the fee. About $1.3 million remains available for continued assistance. Officials said 17 projects tapped into the fund since the exemption went into effect last February.

Developers pay the fees to build new projects; the money offsets the additional cost the city pays to provide services to the development. If a tenant changes the use for a building, he or she also pays impact fees.

The council intended the fee rollback to be a temporary measure. Proponents said the measure helps make downtown attractive to businesses despite the economic downturn.

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