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Cities give cool reception to return of flood control zone

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Dec. 12, 2011 at 11:29 pm with 4 Comments »
December 12, 2011 11:33 pm

It’s coming down to the same old arguments as Pierce County and its cities weigh the formation of a countywide taxing district for flood control.

Officials from DuPont, Lakewood and Steilacoom questioned Monday night why the proposed flood control district should assess the same tax rate countywide when residents in some areas would benefit from its projects more than those living in other areas.

Lakewood City Councilman Michael Brandstetter said establishing a blanket rate “seems arbitrary given where the risk is” and favored asking property owners in the Puyallup River watershed to pay more given they’ll receive the most benefit.

Steilacoom Town Councilman Marion Smith said people pay different car insurance rates based on risk and asked why it should be different for the proposed zone.

Their comments came as Pierce County officials presented information on the proposed district during a joint meeting of the three cities in DuPont. The County Council is scheduled to introduce a draft ordinance forming the district later today.

Division had begun to resurface even before there was a proposal to consider. The cities of Gig Harbor and Milton have separately appealed a decision that creation of the district carries no significant environmental impacts.

And there was nothing to indicate at the joint meeting that the three cities have softened their earlier position.

The County Council had abandoned the first district it formed last year in the face of litigation from several cities, including Lakewood, Gig Harbor and Milton, that raised this very same argument: that the district is unfair and inequitable. At that time, the district was set to impose a $5 annual fee per parcel.

Officials now propose the district would collect more money, 10 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. The proposed tax would generate an estimated $8.5 million a year. The money would be used on projects to prevent floodwaters from crippling the Pierce County economy and contaminating Puget Sound.

But like before, county officials are pushing the argument that floodwaters know no jurisdictional borders. Catastrophic flooding would impact every resident and business in the county no matter where they reside  by shutting down businesses, the Port of Tacoma and Interstate 5.

County Executive Pat McCarthy said cities can be parochial but that doesn’t do anything to solve the problem.

“We’re in the same boat here. We sink or swim. A rising tide floats all boats, whether you’re a big boat or a small boat,” she said.

County Councilman Dick Muri, whose district include all three communities, told them that the district “is going to happen” and there’s “four solid votes” on the council to form it.

“I’m on the inside,” he said. “I see the train coming down the track, and I’m trying to do what I can to steer it in the right direction.”

His main goal will be to amend the ordinance to cap the tax rate at 10 cent so the “much more liberal” County Council he foresees in the future can’t raise it.

Lakewood City Councilman Don Anderson shared the concern, saying a fair assumption by the public is that tax rates “tend to go to the top and stay there.”

DuPont City Councilman John Ehrenreich questioned why it would be so difficult for the district to assess different rates based on the benefit received.

Brian Ziegler, director of county Public Works and Utilities, said the challenge doesn’t stem from drawing the boundaries but rather attaching a dollar value to the benefit.

“Who benefits when I-5 is protected?” he asked. “Who benefits when the sewer treatment plants are protected?”

Follow me on Twitter @TNTchill

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. mo13yo13 says:

    Catastrophic flooding would impact every resident and business in the county no matter where they reside by shutting down businesses, the Port of Tacoma and Interstate 5

    This is not true. I would not be impacted and don’t see why I have to pay for this. Lets stop the money grab…

    If this was true then why wouldn’t it impact the people in King county??? Shouldn’t they be Taxed? What about the people in Portland?? Or eastern WA???

  2. Darkehawk says:

    My question, being a resident of downtown Puyallup, is…why do I have to pay a flood tax when it is the county’s fault it is now a danger. Without the massive amounts of homes (that were approved by the county) on south hill, there wouldn’t be a problem. What did they do with the billions they made from that?

  3. S_Emerson says:

    Question for CM Muri – who are the four for-sure Yes voters on the council?

    Concern – the current language says ‘up to 50 cents per $1,000 value’, so the amendment to cap it at 10 cents would be appreciated, however this tax, which you are calling a fee, needs to go before the voters and NOT be decided by the Council. You’re working on forming a PC Metro Parks District as well, so if that passes, and the FCZD passes, between those two new taxing authorities, plus the new 911 tax, we’re going to be looking at substantial increases to our future property taxes.

  4. ReadNLearn says:

    Now hold on…why should those of us with the common sense to live on high ground that hasn’t flooded since the days of Noah have to pay for those who want to live below the very evident, just about every year remarked floodline???

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