Crook County OKs development fees

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: December 22. 2006 5:00AM PST

After a second consecutive year in which Crook County was the fastest-growing county in the state of Oregon, officials hope to increase revenues by implementing fees on new developments to help offset the strain of population growth.

The Crook County Court recently decided to hire a consultant to study how best to implement system development charges in the county. The study will probably take six months to a year to complete, Crook County Commissioner Mike Mohan said, and the charges would go into effect soon after that.

System development charges are applied to new developments and help pay for the costs of new infrastructure needed for a growing population. Crook County’s SDCs would be earmarked for use on improvements to the county’s transportation system, but could not be used for regular road maintenance.

“It’s just a generalized concept that growth should pay for itself, because it’s not fair to ask existing residents who aren’t adding to that level of demand,” Planning Director Bill Zelenka said. “The growth has really started in the past two to three years here, and we’ve been talking about some kind of funding mechanism since it happened, so this is just the next logical step.”

Crook would be the second county in Central Oregon to adopt transportation SDCs. Jefferson County already has the system in place, and last year collected $341,433. Deschutes County is also considering a plan to pay for road improvements through SDCs.

The county fees would not affect the city of Prineville, which already charges SDCs for roads, sewer and water. Development charges are usually collected when a developer applies for a building permit, but Zelenka said the details in Crook County have yet to be worked out. The developers’ costs are often passed on to buyers in the form of higher home prices.

“Before you determine how much (money the SDCs will raise) we’re going to have to determine what kind of projects we anticipate that the growth will require us to put in over and above the normal maintenance stuff,” he said.

Mohan said the new fees will probably start next fall or winter, after the County Court and county planning commission review the consultant’s study and recommendations.

Much of the current development in Crook County is centered on the three destination resorts under way in the Powell Butte area. Because the destination resorts – in particular Brasada Ranch, which has broken ground – have already pledged money to cover transportation improvements, they could earn some exemptions from future SDCs, Zelenka said. But they would still be responsible for some charges.

Mohan added that many other development projects are under way in parts of the county outside of Powell Butte.

“The destination resorts probably will contribute a significant portion of this because they’re significant-sized developments, but we’ve had a huge amount of subdivisions that have been platted, and some have been built on and some have not,” Mohan said.

The Juniper Canyon area and neighborhoods within Prineville’s urban growth boundary but outside of the city limits have seen plans for new subdivisions lately, he said.

All together, the three destination resorts – which are in various stages of construction and planning – will include about 3,850 single-family homes in addition to overnight housing units.

Chris Pippin, vice president for Winchester Development, the Calif.-based company developing Remington Ranch, said he is not sure how the SDCs would affect the project, but he generally considers them “a very positive thing.”

“SDCs are good ways for states or counties or municipalities to collect funds on a fairer basis from everyone who’s doing development in the county,” Pippin said. “There is not a great mechanism right now for Crook County to get funds specifically for their county road systems, so I think it certainly is something that was probably needed, with or without the destination resorts that are coming in.”

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