Leavitt calls out Madore over claim about excessive city fees

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt exchanged emails with Clark County Commissioner David Madore this week, challenging Madore’s assertion in a Q & A with the Vancouver Business Journal that the city wanted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit fees,” for an expansion of Madore’s company, U.S. Digital.

Madore was quoted in the VBJ saying: “I know from my own experience operating US Digital that twice during our history we attempted to grow and we stopped because the city of Vancouver wanted hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit fees. So we decided it wasn’t worth it.”

Leavitt emailed Madore:

Mr. Madore —

I read with interest the interview referenced above.
Catching my attention, in particular, was your following comment:
“I know from my own experience operating US Digital that twice during our history we attempted to grow and we stopped because the city of Vancouver wanted hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit fees.” (emphasis added)
I asked city staff to research this claim you’ve made of significant permit fees. Staff are unable to find any documentation, correspondence or information otherwise to corroborate your assertion of “hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit fees”.
In fact, City Staff are able to document the following general summary of land use approvals and commercial building permits for your company, dating back to 2004 (at your prior location of business):
 Prior Address of Business

2004: 5,684 sf addition; land use, building permit, TIF, etc. resulted in $11,225.53 in fees

 Current Address of Business

2006: Major T.I. (117,913 s.f.) building permit only = $5,772.50 in fees
2008: Minor T.I. (17,000 s.f.) building permit only = $4,253.30 in fees
2008: Com permit for landscaping/water feature enhancements = $2,460.50 in fees
2010: Minor T.I. = $1,457.21 in fees
2010: Minor T.I. = $515.21 in fees
2011: Minor T.I. = $642.60 in fees

The sum of these permit fees (inclusive of two different office locations) is a little over $26,000.

We are aware that in the 2005-06 timeframe, you moved into a dramatically larger space (from 11100 NE 34th Circle) at 1400 NE 136th Avenue, where you are providing space to businesses/non-profits other than your own. Such factual information also suggests a contradiction to your statement that “during our history we attempted to grow and stopped”.
If you have other information that validates your public comments, please do provide that.
Otherwise, I’ll be asking the VBJ for an opportunity to refute your statements about the City of Vancouver. It’s important to me that factual information is provided to our public.
Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Madore responded, apparently without reading the e-mail’s subject line referring to “Q & A with Clark County Commissioner David Madore May 31:”

Mayor Tim Leavitt,

Thank you for tuning into my CVTV Focus interview.

The first time we wanted to add on was in our previous building at 11100 NE 34 Circle. The city permit staff would not help us until we spent $60,000 in architect fees. After the city piled on excessive requirements that made our addition impractical, we abandoned the project and absorbed the loss. I don’t have the records handy at the county. But I am guessing the year was around 2006.

The second project was to build a media studio in our warehouse. To avoid a repeat of our first experience, we consulted with a local architect who gave us the bad news before we wasted our money. We ended up converting an existing classroom instead.

I can see that you see from the detailed record in your email that we’ve pulled numerous permits totaling a little over $26,000. Those were the successful ones. As elected officials, unless a citizen makes it a point, we will not know about those that choose not to build.

It is a pleasure for me to tune in and do all that I can to remove the disincentives. In the long run, growth pays for growth as each business built or expanded contributes to our economic vitality. Hopefully, all of Clark County will prosper and thrive as we unleash free enterprise and open the floodgates to local private jobs.

David Madore
Clark County Commissioner

Leavitt’s responded, pointing out that architectural design costs shouldn’t be considered a “city fee.”

Good Morning Commissioner Madore,
I must apologize, as I realized my initial email wasn’t entirely clear.
The comments you made that I am referencing did not occur during your CVTV Focus Interview, as you respond below.
The comments of yours that I am addressing were made in your “Q & A…” with the Vancouver Business Journal.
I hope this clarification will help you provide a response that more directly explains your comments.
Again, your statement in this conversation with the VBJ indicates that the City of Vancouver was responsible for preventing you from expanding your business due to excessive fees.
Based on the response you provided below, as well as the factual evidence that is widely known, that statement still remains accurate at this time.
Suggesting that the City is responsible for architectural design costs for a building expansion is not logical; having a professional architect and structural engineer design a building expansion is a necessity of public safety.
You have expanded your business (in the City of Vancouver).
You were not assessed “hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit fees” by the City of Vancouver.
As a representative elected official, I would hope you agree with me that acting in good faith (based on reason, data and facts), and demonstrating transparency and honesty in public commentary is a necessity.
Our public deserves no less. Furthermore, when a mis-statement is made, our public also deserves a clarification.
Your comments to the VBJ attempt to shed a bad light on the City of Vancouver; At a minimum, your statements warrant detail and clarification, and if necessary (as I am suspecting), correction.
So, my request of you is two-fold:
#1) Provide your evidence to corroborate your statements to the VBJ.
#2) If unable, please issue a correction to your statements to the VBJ.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
I look forward to hearing back from you,

Leavitt said today that if Madore doesn’t respond by Friday, he’ll contact the VBJ and ask if he can have a response published to correct Madore’s statement.

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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