THOUSAND OAKS : Court Upholds Schools' Builder Fee

The state Court of Appeal has upheld the right of the Conejo Valley Unified School District to charge a developer fee in exchange for permission to build homes.

The appeals court in Ventura ruled Tuesday that the Thousand Oaks school district followed the law when it assessed Canyon North Co. and Canyon North Group $1.50 per square foot of construction for three developments approved in 1987 and 1988.

The three developments involved the construction of 294 housing units, including apartments, duplexes and single-family homes on 47 acres.

Canyon North, in two lawsuits that were consolidated for trial, argued that it was exempt from the developer fees because of work that had been done on the land when it was owned by Prudential Insurance Co. of America.

That work was done before school districts were allowed to charge developer fees to pay for additional schools that might be needed because of new construction.

The developer also argued that it should get its money back due to overcharging, because the student enrollment anticipated when the fee was assessed never materialized.

The court ruled that the fee may be based upon information available at the time it is assessed and should not be subject to hindsight.

The work done by Prudential consisted of two streets, drainage facilities and utilities.

That work was merely "a remote step on the path leading to new housing," the court said, and it was not until the land was divided into residential lots that the district had the information it needed to assess fees.

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