Wildfires are a real cause for concern in the state of Washington, and residents take them seriously. But when the City Council of Moses Lake, a small city in the center of the state, proposed imposing Fire Impact fees on all new development, it meant an added cost burden during a statewide housing affordability crisis. With help from the REALTOR® Party, the state association launched a Call for Action to convince the City Council to reconsider.
Nathan Gorton, Government Affairs Director of the Washington REALTORS®, explains that the proposed Fire Impact fees had not been carefully thought through. “They were to be used to fund fire station facilities, which no one denies is necessary, but no further funding had been identified to pay for the operational costs of a new station,” he points out. That, together with the prohibitive nature of the fees where new development projects were concerned, and the fact that the proposed fees could have been increased at any time without a vote of the City Council, added fuel to the fire, so to speak.
Gorton had been monitoring the situation from the distant capital, when he received a call one morning from the AE of the local REALTOR® association informing him that the Council vote would be that evening. “I said, ‘Let’s see what we can do…’, fully expecting that we wouldn’t be able to help at that point,” he admits. But a call to the REALTOR® Party set an expedited Advocacy Everywhere plan in motion, and within hours, an urgent message was sent to local REALTORS® via email and REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert texts. For a three-hour campaign, notes Gorton, it inspired a decent number of emails: an overall action rate of 11%. “The really cool thing was that a number of members saw the CFA, and actually showed up at the meeting that evening – you know, with pizza for the kids. Now, that’s responding.” In the end, the vote was put off due to a technicality, but members of the community were still able to speak their minds about the controversial fees.
“The REALTORS® weren’t looking to shut down the conversation,” continues Gorton, “most members agree with the need – just not the tax.” Other revenue options, like a sales tax increase, he says, haven’t been thoroughly investigated yet, and the outcome provides a productive delay, giving the community a chance to take a step back and put together a more comprehensive strategy that will allow for the development of much-needed housing in the area.
The 128 members of the Moses Lake-Othello Association are thrilled to have a reprieve on the Fire Impact fee issue, reports Gorton. “It was fun to have so many of them here at the capital for Hill Day, just days after the vote, fresh from their success. I’m super appreciative of the Advocacy Everywhere program for making me look so good!” laughs the GAD.
To learn more about how the Washington REALTORS® are working to keep a lid on the state’s housing affordability crisis, contact Government Affairs Director Nathan Gorton at 360-561-7700.