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Board OKs New Levies on Builders : Growth: Supervisors vote to collect traffic impact fees on all development in unincorporated areas.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Millions of dollars in traffic impact fees will be levied on new construction projects in Ventura County to help keep freeways and county roads working, the Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday.

Despite opposition from developers during a two-hour public hearing, the board voted 3 to 2 to begin collecting the fees on all development in the unincorporated county area.

County leaders said they hope the policy will pave the way for a plan to collect fees on every project built not only in the unincorporated area, but also in each of the county’s 10 cities.

The assessments could raise nearly $100 million to pay for 30 projects over the next 16 years, including improvements to county roads, state highways and freeways.

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“The bottom line is there isn’t any new funding for transportation,” Deputy Public Works Director Butch Britt told the board. “These fees are a reasonable way to pay for road projects in Ventura County.”

The charges, which range from $1,351 for a single-family house to $20,486 for a fast-food restaurant, are less than half the amount initially recommended by the county.

The board agreed to lower the fees after developers complained during the hearing that the charges would drive builders away from Ventura County.

Nearly two dozen speakers--mostly developers and residents of the unincorporated county area--addressed the board. City officials and environmentalists, who have criticized the fees, were not present.

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Developer Philip R. Bronner told the board that charging high fees would hinder his plans to build a strip mall on property he owns on the Oxnard plain.

“If our development gets hit with (fees at the originally proposed level) we may have difficulty getting financing,” he said.

The board’s decision is the first step in lifting a six-year ban on any construction in the unincorporated county area that would increase traffic in areas that suffer from traffic jams and deteriorating roads.

West county residents Gilbert and Kathy Richardson said they would gladly pay the fee if it means they will be allowed to divide the beachfront property where they live and build a second house.

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Richardson told the board he spent $19,000 on permits and planning before discovering that he and his wife were barred from building on their property.

“We do not want to build hundreds of homes, just one for our family,” Richardson said. “We feel we have been more than patient with the system, and we would like to get on with our plans.”

Supervisor Maggie Kildee, who voted in favor of the fee, said she sympathized with the Richardsons’ plight.

“These people are not able to move forward with their plans,” Kildee said. “It seems right and fair to me that we work out this agreement.”

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Supervisors Vicky Howard and Susan Lacey also voted in favor of the fee.

Supervisors John K. Flynn and Maria VanderKolk voted against the fee. Flynn said he opposed the charge because he believes the funding already exists in government coffers to pay for transportation projects, but is being spent on excessive administration.

“I have a philosophical problem with fees,” Flynn said. “I think I’m looking at a deep problem about how this county and this state and this county are governed.”


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