‘Latecomers’ fee proposed for roads in Crook County

Plan would charge future developers for vehicle impacts

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: May 05. 2007 8:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – As development on destination resorts and residential subdivisions continues in Crook County, officials are still working out how to handle the effects on local roads.

The Oregon Department of Transportation and the company behind proposed destination resort Hidden Canyon want Crook County to implement a “latecomers” fee that would work like a system development charge and bill future developers for the estimated car trips their developments would add to state Highway 126.

Under the plan, all of the roughly $4.5 million that Hidden Canyon has agreed to pay ODOT for the resort’s projected impacts to a variety of roads and intersections would be used instead to build a new interchange at the intersection of Highway 126 and the Powell Butte Highway.

The “latecomers” fee would then be collected by the county when developers apply for plats for building permits, and paid back to ODOT for use on other road improvements in Crook and Deschutes counties estimated to cost $3.5 million. Currently, the county does not charge transportation SDCs, but it does negotiate with developers on a case-by-case basis to cover the cost of specific road improvements.

The fee would range from $215 to $1,465 for every afternoon rush-hour trip, based on a funding mechanism proposed by ODOT that divides the county geographically into areas that send the most and fewest cars through the Highway 126 and the Powell Butte Highway intersection. The other roads impacted by Hidden Canyon, which the latecomers fee would go to fix, include some in Deschutes County because of traffic to and from Redmond.

At its regular meeting this week, the Crook County Court agreed to consider an ordinance implementing the fee at an upcoming meeting. But county commissioners expressed reservations about the plan, and grilled ODOT Regional Manager Bob Bryant as well as Dennis Pahlisch, whose RMG Developments has applied to build the 3,250-acre resort.

“We would build the intersection and the latecomers would be other developers after that,” Pahlisch said after the meeting. “We would build an intersection that’s 50 percent more than we need.”

The interchange is projected to cost $6 million. The difference between that figure and Hidden Canyon’s contribution would be made up by $540,000 from Remington Ranch, an approved destination resort, and a loan from either Hidden Canyon or the Oregon Transportation Infrastructure Bank, a statewide loan fund for transportation projects.

Eggs in one basket

Marc Butorac, principal engineer with Kittelson & Associates, a transportation consulting company that helped devise the fee plan, said the interchange could be built within three to five years.

“It basically puts all the eggs in Hidden Canyon’s basket to require them to build that interchange and have it operational prior to 200 units being on the ground,” Butorac said at the meeting. “The latecomers agreement basically says there’s going to be future development … (and) we have a user that has the financial wherewithal to front this money and get this thing off the ground.”

Commissioner Lynn Lundquist, who lives in Powell Butte, disagreed with that assumption and said he would prefer not to focus only on the Highway 126-Powell Butte Highway intersection.

“I absolutely think we need to look at the total impact to the community based on the traffic and the culture that we’re trying to preserve there,” Lundquist said. “There may be other developments (to) come and I know all that, but they may not, too.”

Commissioner Mike McCabe added that he thinks ODOT should be spending more money in the county anyway.

“We haven’t had any major ODOT dollars in Crook County for a thousand years,” he said. “It just seems to me that if there were some way we could tweak this that we would figure out a way to make all those intersections happen, but it would be dedicated to Crook County growth, that would be more palatable to me.”

The commissioners raised other concerns with the fee, including the city of Prineville’s role in contributing to road improvements, the potential impact on small landowners and the cost of implementing the plan.

The fee would work basically like an SDC, which charges developers a per-unit fee that can only be used for new infrastructure. Last month, the County Court reversed an earlier decision and decided not to pursue implementing a transportation SDC at this time.

After the meeting, Crook County Judge Scott Cooper questioned the basic premise of the fee. In the past, county officials have said that improvements to the intersection at Highway 126 and the Powell Butte Highway are ODOT’s responsibility.

“There’s a deeper philosophical question of what’s the point of having a state highway that the state doesn’t want to fund?” he asked. “(But) you don’t want to take away the economic engine of the county, especially now when we’re on an upswing, so it puts us in a very difficult position.”

Bryant, the ODOT regional manager, said that there are “limited or no public funds” for the improvements. And Butorac, of Kittelson & Associates, added that the currently proposed developments in the Powell Butte area put the intersection at capacity, and a failure to take action could lead to a de facto moratorium on building.

“We’re right on that verge here in Crook County, and the latecomers (fee), it’s not the silver bullet,” Butorac said. “It’s the first step of many steps that are to come.”

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