CALIFORNIA CITY – In an effort to spur development of new residential construction City Council approved a temporary reduction in developer impact fees and introduction of a fast track permitting process May 28. Council approved the item with a vote of 3-1, with Mayor Chuck McGuire casting the dissenting vote. Councilwoman Tami Johnson was absent to due illness.
The city will waive residential development impact fees for sewer and water for a period of three years. The city will temporarily waive the $1,649 water impact fee, $1,898 sewer impact fee and the $2,150 residential water connection fee.
"So in an effort to bring growth and development to our city, staff with the help of citizens and organizations, has studied effects the development fees," said Senior Building Official Joe Barragan. "Also, we listened to the citizens and developers in the area and staff believes that our fees are a little too high and that probably was not helping us grow in terms of getting the single family developments built and other multifamily dwellings."
In making their recommendation, staff also reviewed a study published by the Center for California Real Estate and Terner Center for Innovative Housing and looked at research by MyCalCity.org.
Local businessman DJ Twohig has been championing the lowering of fees for several months. He also made a presentation on the recommendations during a council workshop and spoke with the Mojave Unified School District about lowering or waiving their fees.
"I've really been inspired by the district superintendent and assistant superintendent," said Twohig "They're really trying to get their arms around what economic growth would look like, what attracting working families would actually look like and have been pretty responsive to the idea of this - this is more than a reduction in fees. This is actually economic policy. And that's been fed back to us. So I could see that the district has taken a pretty proactive role in ensuring this idea of what we want California City to look like."
Planning Commission Chairman Jim Creighton questioned the effectiveness of waiving the fees.
"Does this really make developers want to come here and build more," he said. "It seems to me that this is just a small drop in the bucket granted, multiply that over 200 homes it's considerable, but they will pass that on to the people buying the homes."
Ron Smith spoke in favor of the waiver.
"Bottom line is something has to be done to spur growth in our community," he said. "And half of zero is still zero. If we're not getting the impact fees anyway (due to lack of building) … it's an opportunity to see some growth."
McGuire said he opposed the waiver out of concern that waiving the fees could be passed on to existing ratepayers.
"These services have to be paid for and the city won't have the money," he said. "That means it's going to all on the ratepayers, the people that are the customer. That is a big concern of mine."
Mayor Pro-Tem Gene Stump said he understood McGuire's concerns but was still in favor of waiving fees.
"How much construction have we had in the last three years or less," he said. "Five years we have had hardly any. And, you know, if you don't try and do something to generate construction, you're never going to know for sure."
The resolution also called for staff to immediately begin the development of a Fast Track permitting process. The process would include expedited review and decision of entitlements and a separate process for expedited review and permitting of building and engineering plans and documents.
Staff was instructed to develop a draft resolution for Fast Track process on or before July 15.
One other aspect of the resolution called for a recommendation to adopt a public relations message: "Our new vision includes Fast Track permitting and attractive residential fees."
In other business, the council:
• Approved the Aspen Mall Landscaping and Lighting District fees
• Authorized the city to sign a contract for geographic information system mapping for the police department
• Approved an Academy of Model Aeronautics Giant Scale Pylon Racing event to be held at the municipal airport in October.
The city also met in closed session to discuss performance goals and objectives for interim City Manager Anna Linn.
Resident Al Hutson asked for an explanation of what goals and objectives would be set by council, prior to the start of the closed session. McGuire said they would not be reported because it dealt with a personnel issue.
"Goals and objectives is not personnel, that concerns the public," said Hutson.
City Attorney Christian Bettenhausen said that information was not reportable.
"It's dealing with employee matters related to the city manager," he said. "So it's a personnel issue. It's not something that you publicly discuss."