SEASIDE — The Sunset Empire Park and Recreation district faces some big expenses in years to come, with a potential new building, facilities and expansion. In May, Executive Director Skyler Archibald pointed to a need for more indoor recreation space for fitness participants and youth programs.
A potential funding mechanism may be available, imposing system development charges on new construction.
“It would be a smart fiscal move,” said board member Mike Hinton, who brought the matter to the agenda at the district’s Dec. 19 meeting. “It takes a while to build up any kind of capital in this way, but it’s another tool in our toolbox when we come down to financial questions of how do we do an expansion, how do we build a gym? This is one thing we can do.”
The question of putting new system development charges in place first came before the district board as a discussion topic in July with a presentation from consultant John Ghilarducci, principal of FCS Group, a financial consulting firm based in Seattle.
The charges are one-time fees for new construction, remodels or redeveloped construction to help pay for existing and planned infrastructure to serve the development. State law authorizes local governments to assess system development charges and specifies how, when, and for what improvements they can be imposed. Charges collected may not be used for repairs or maintenance, but may be used for new facilities or to expand the parks base.
“What the district needs to decide is if we want to pursue this right now,” Archibald said.
The board should consider a consultant like FCS group to “make sure all the boxes are checked” before implementing new charges, Archibald added, estimating it would cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to finance a study.
Board president Alan Evans sees a potential impact on efforts to provide affordable housing if developers pass charges to home buyers, he said.
“I’m not saying I wouldn’t listen — but I would want to hear a little more,” Evans said.
Hinton agreed to the need for affordable housing, but said the district needs to get on board with a plan.
“It doesn’t have to happen in such a way to discourage affordable housing,” he said.
Board member Jeremy Mills asked for a comparison of charges by cities with similar demographics to Seaside’s.
“I’m on board if it pans out or makes sense, but I don’t want to spend money if it doesn’t bear fruit,” Mills said. “We do need to continue to grow in a responsible fiduciary manner.”
The board agreed to proceed with further analysis and discussion.