UNION — The cost of constructing buildings in Union may soon drop significantly.

The Union City Council discussed the possibility of lowering the $5,200 system development charge (SDC), which is applied to anyone who constructs a new building requiring water and sewer hookups. The majority of the six councilors at the meeting said they favored lowering the system development charge.

City Councilor Walt Brookshire said he believes the city’s high SDC could be impacting Union’s growth.

“It may discourage families from moving here,” he said.

Union and La Grande are the only cities in Union County that have a system development charge. The City of La Grande’s SDC is $525 per residential unit, according to La Grande City Planner Mike Boquist.

The City of Union has been assessing this charge since the late 1990s. The fee is $5,200 per residential equivalent unit. A single home qualifies as a residential equivalent unit, while an apartment complex would have additional residential REUs, said Union City Administrator Doug Wiggins.

Fees collected via a city’s system development charge in Oregon can be used to help offset the impact a project will have on the city’s infrastructure of storm and sanitary sewer systems, parks and recreation facilities, water and street systems.

Union’s system development charge ordinance prohibits SDC fee money to be spent on anything other than its fund for water and sewer infrastructure. Alternatively, La Grande’s SDC fee money can be spent only on the city’s park system, Boquist said.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer