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SOUTH COUNTY : Developer Fees for Tollways Increased

Faced with ballooning price tags for three tollways planned for South County, authorities on Thursday agreed to dramatically increase the fees that developers will pay to help build the new routes.

But the increase in fees, which ranged as high as 46%, hardly ruffled local developers. They said the move would not have a dramatic impact on home prices along the toll roads, which are now expected to cost $2.1 billion to build.

“It’s been expected,” said Christine Reed, executive director of the Building Industry Assn. of Orange County. “We just wanted to make sure it stayed in the realm of something that won’t impact our market too much. We still want the homeowners to be able to buy homes.”

Reed predicted that home buyers along the tollways “will be OK” and that the fee increases are “not going to dramatically affect the price of housing.”

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The Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies, which are composed of officials from the county and various cities along the routes, ordered the fee hikes in a pair of unanimous votes. The increases take effect March 11.

Tollway officials said the changes were necessary because estimates of construction costs have risen with inflation and plans for the routes have been refined.

Fees for new development will jump 39% along the San Joaquin tollway, which runs from San Juan Capistrano through the coastal foothills to the Corona del Mar Freeway in Newport Beach. For a single-family home close to the highway, the fee will rise from $2,023 to $2,822. For multiple-family dwellings, the fee will go from $1,178 to $1,643.

A more modest 3% increase is planned for the Eastern and Foothill tollways. A builder would be charged $2,399 for a single-family home, up from $2,327 previously. The charge for multifamily units would rise from $1,359 to $1,401.

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But those fee increases would be just the beginning. In 1994, developers along the Foothill and Eastern tollways would have to pay an additional 46%, which would mean a fee of $3,516 for a single-family home and $2,053 for multifamily units.

The Eastern tollway connects the Riverside Freeway near the county border with the Santa Ana Freeway in Irvine. The Foothill tollway is planned to serve Rancho Santa Margarita and other communities sprouting in rural reaches of eastern Orange County.

In other action, the tollway agency opted to delay a vote on the much-disputed environmental review of the San Joaquin Hills route. The decision was expected in February, but agency officials decided instead to hold public hearings Feb. 14 and 28 and then vote on the environmental impact report March 14.


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