Letters to the Editor

Collaborate on affordable housing plan

Most everyone agrees that we desperately need more affordable housing, and that the Home Trust proposal is excellent.

Most everyone also agrees that annexing more land for affordable housing shouldn’t be a burden to existing town residents, many of whom would qualify for affordable housing. This would put these people into a less affordable situation.

What are the cost impacts of annexation? Once property is annexed, the town is responsible to provide sewer, water, roads and other services. Within the property, the cost of the sewer lines, water lines, street, curb and sidewalks are the responsibility of the development. So only the cost of connecting to the development is a town cost.

Do we have this number for the Home Trust property? The new residents will become ratepayers. How much will that contribute?

Stormwater is another potential cost. Again, the developer will bear the cost of stormwater mitigation and retention on the property. The town could be responsible for receiving what exceeds that capacity. Do we have that cost? The new residents will be subject to the town’s stormwater fee. How much will that offset?

The town could allow low-impact development standards in the new areas to additionally reduce stormwater impact. Examples include swales instead of curbs and gutters, which greatly reduces runoff.

Infill is not a cost-free solution and comes with additional crowding. As town population grows, there are thresholds that trigger when utility improvements will be necessary. These are usually expensive.

Raising the reservoir dam, for instance, was estimated at $5 million three years ago. Population growth, whether from infill or annexation, will have the same impact, putting us closer to those thresholds.

Is there any benefit to having more ratepayers contributing to the utilities? Are we better off with more or less? What is the ideal level?

Replacing the water transmission line along San Juan Valley Road is a project that needs to be done. If annexation means a larger diameter pipe needs to be used, then a larger pipe is needed anyway. Whether growth occurs inside or outside town, the project needs to anticipate future growth over the next 50 years.

Affordable housing in the town benefits the county. There are county grants, like the $100,000 grants the county has made twice to the Guard Street project. The county also uses a different approach to infrastructure and utility issues by addressing them through the SEPA and subdivision process.

The town and the county worked well together to get the Phase I UGA established. I hope there is the possibility for additional collaboration to get this annexation accomplished in time to meet the needs of the Home Trust.

Howard Rosenfeld
County Council chairman and former Town Council member

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