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City trying to force woman to pay $60,000 'ransom' for street fix didn't expect resistance - WND

WND Staff
3-4 minutes

MoneyU.S.

Homeowners now 'free to renovate' properties

WND Staff†By†WND Staff
Published February 9, 2020 at 3:53pm

(Photo courtesy Pixabay)

Homeowners in Richland, Washington, now are free to improve, remodel or renovate their residences without paying a "ransom" to the city.

The court ruling came in a lawsuit against the city over its "practice of unconstitutionally forcing homeowners to upgrade city streets as a condition of obtaining a building permit."

Linda Cameron, represented by the Institute for Justice, sued after she was told she would have to pay $60,000 for street work to improve her modest residence.

Paul Avelar, a lawyer representing Cameron, explained: "It is a shame that it took a federal lawsuit for the city to recognize that it was violating its citizenís constitutional rights. But with this change, Linda and other homeowners are free to renovate their property without having to pay a ransom to the city."

The dispute began in 2018 when Cameron sought to renovate the one-bedroom, one-bath home where she has lived for more than 40 years.

A contractor was hired, plans were drawn up and a permit application was submitted to the city.

A building inspector approved her project, but the Richland Public Works Department said she had to "renovate a public street" that ran along an edge of her property.

"Linda would have to widen 400 feet of street; build curbs, gutters and streetlights; and add sidewalks that didnít connect to any other sidewalks. An engineer estimated the changes Linda would have to make at $60,000," the Institute for Justice said.

In her lawsuit, her lawyers argued that while impact fees required by cities are constitutional, levying the charges when there is no impact is unconstitutional, amounting to "extortion."

"The Supreme Court has explained that impact fees charged without impacts are unconstitutional; indeed, they are little more than extortion. Linda's case demonstrates why. Linda just wanted to add a second bedroom to her one-bedroom home, but Richland said that before she could, she would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars widening a city street behind her house. It's obvious that Linda's second bedroom would not have an impact on the street. The city just wanted Linda to pay for a new street, so it wouldn't have to," the lawyers explanation noted.

Cameron's lawsuit convinced the city to concede it should be charging an impact fee only when there is an impact.

Typically, such fees are charged to developers for subdivision development plans.



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