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Cal Co Road Impact Fees Win Approval – Again

Calaveras County will charge developers a Road Impact Mitigation, this time opposed.

In November, supervisors approved a RIM program on a 3-2 vote that exempted including commercial development, supervisors decided Monday.

The program was passed on a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Tom Tryon and Paul Stein commercial development. But, when the ordinance came back for final adoption in December, Supervisor Lucy Thein changed her vote to join Supervisors Merita Callaway and Victoria Erickson, who wanted commercial development to be charged the fee, not just residential development. “We should have included commercial,” Thein said when she switched her vote.

The RIM fee will be paid at the building-permit stage and will raise money to improve regional and county roads impacted by new development. Schools, churches, libraries and medical facilities will be exempt.

Stein said he still believes commercial development should be excluded because a RIM fee could have a negative consequence for commercial development in the county.

Supervisors should instead look into assessing a fee on commercial development after the business is up and running, Stein said “The costs are so exorbitant, they drive (developers) away,” he said. Erickson said Stein´s argument doesn´t work since the county hasn´t had a commercial RIM fee and even without it there hasn´t been any significant commercial development.

The county hasn´t been proactively encouraging commercial development, even “when they´re knocking on our door,” Erickson said. Fees on commercial projects will vary according to land use.

To establish a consistent fee, the Public Works Department, which would administer the RIM program, should use a manual written by the Institute of Engineering, Eric Nickell of Economic and Planning Systems, a consulting firm hired by the Council of Governments, said. COG is the county´s regional transportation agency.

The manual lists specific developments and their impacts based on the amount of car trips they would create. “It´s a scientifically accounted, … quality, …unbiased source,” Nickell said.

But, David Sidle, owner of Sidle Construction in Mokelumne Hill, said such manuals are generated in suburban areas and over mitigate rural projects. Sidle said an apartment complex he built created wasted space because it was based on eight car trips a day per apartment unit and required abundant parking. “Up here that´s not the case,” Sidle said.

Erickson agreed and said Public Works staff should be careful when referring to such studies.

The commercial fee works out to $1.90 per square foot of retail space. That´s competitive with other jurisdictions, George Dondero, executive director of COG, said.

The city of Angels Camp´s commercial RIM fee is $4.90, Tuolumne County is $4.10, Amador County is $1.80, and Stanislaus County is $4.50, board documents said.

Commercial development is expected to add $7.4 million to the program by 2025. The program´s road projects, improvements to existing roads, would cost $156.5 million by then.

Residential and commercial fees combined would contribute $37.77 million to the program. The fee will add about $3,300 to the cost of a new single-family home.

The $118.73 million balance would come from a district gasoline, sales, parcel, or transient occupancy tax, if approved by voters.

Joyce Techel of Burson, who was suing the county for taking 17 years to establish a RIM fee program, said she now hopes voters will approve a tax increase. “I do believe people have to contribute,” Techel said.

Final adoption of the RIM fee ordinance will be considered by supervisors at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com