Truck parking tax in North Bend, Wash., put on hold

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 5/5/2016

A controversial move to pass an ordinance in North Bend, Wash., that would impose a 30 percent commercial parking tax on the lone truck stop without a first read or public input has turned out to be “a mistake.” The proposed tax, which was on the agenda Tuesday, May 3, at the city council meeting, is now in limbo.

Initially listed on a consent agenda, which would bypass standard procedures for passing ordinances, the commercial parking tax proposal was replaced on the agenda as “an Introduction.” 

“I would like to apologize to the citizens and the council that this item was placed on the consent agenda,” City Administrator Londi Lindell said. “That was a mistake. It should have been in its current location under Introductions.”

With that mishap out of the way, a discussion and public input was underway.

Lindell noted that road maintenance for North Bend costs the city $540,000 each year. Although the city was granted $100,000 from the state government, the amount was one time only and does not address the long-term costs.

The city had looked into other businesses in the city to assess their impact relative to the money being brought in. Lindell proposed a possible paid parking lot for the numerous hiking tourists that visit the city every year.

Assistant City Administrator Dawn Masko explained how the fuel revenue generated by the TravelCenters of America – informally known as Truck Town – does not stay in the city. The state distributes the gas tax on a per-capita basis. North Bend had asked for a 1-cent gas tax increase for the city but was turned down.

Masko said that around 12 other cities in Washington state levy a commercial parking tax. Taxes in other cities range from 5 percent to 30 percent of gross revenue. Other cities charge per transaction, anywhere from $1 to $4.

In terms of the impact on North Bend roads, Masko said that one 40,000-pound truck has the same impact as 5,000 passenger vehicles.

Seven people spoke up during the city council meeting, including a TravelCenters of America district manager and legal counsel for the truck stop. The district manager pointed out that Truck Town employs approximately 60 people, 50 of which are full time. He also explained that Truck Town does not charge for parking. Rather, truckers can pay to reserve a space. Reservation fees go toward administrative costs and do not account for any profit.

Legal Counsel for Truck Town urged the city to reject the proposed tax. The counsel suggested that the tax singles out the truck stop and legal precedent “prohibits placing an unfair and disproportionate burden on one property owner for the benefit of the community at large.” He went on to explain that Truck Town lies approximately two-tenths of a mile off the highway exit, resulting in minimal impact to North Bend roadways as a whole.

Council member Jonathan Rosen acknowledged that more work needs to be done on the ordinance proposal before the city goes any further with it.

“We can do better and will do better,” Rosen said.

A motion to table the ordinance for further discussion was approved unanimously. Dates for future meetings concerning the ordinances are to be determined.

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