Council to ponder fee change

Council members will discuss Monday whether to make developers pay 100% of a recently approved impact-fee increase or continue with a staggered increase adopted last year.

Mayor Connie Boardman asked the council to consider the change at its Jan. 22 meeting. The discussion was continued to the Feb. 4 meeting because Councilwoman Jill Hardy was absent.

In 2011 a study was conducted to determine how much of a one-time fee the city should charge developers based on the type of development and its impact on the community. On June 18, the council voted to charge only 30% of the new fee the first year after implementation and 60% the second year. Starting the third year, the developers would pay 90% of the fee and residents would pay the other 10%.

The study was proposed after council members said they felt the fees that developers were paying weren't adequate, Boardman said.

The development fees are used to pay for items such as law enforcement facilities, fire suppression facilities, street and traffic signal improvements, and park land acquisition and park facilities development.

Boardman said during the June 18 council meeting that the 30% percent increase schedule was "a very fair compromise," but has decided to ask the council this year to move the impact fees to 100%.

Boardman said in a recent interview that she voted to approve the resolution in June because it was the best deal for the city at the time.

She added that residents were being "shortchanged" and developers were getting a break. She said developers should be paying their fair share of fees.

"I'd be interested in hearing what her case is — why she's seeking this increase," Mayor Pro Tem Matt Harper said. "Is it because she wants to collect more fees, or is it by increasing the fees so much, it's actually an indirect way to prevent home construction?"

Projects that were thought to be in danger when the resolution was first drawn up were the developments along the Beach Boulevard and Edinger Avenue Corridor, but a clause was set in place to grandfather those projects into the old fee structure, Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Wheeler said.

It would be newer developments outside of the revitalization project that would be affected by the fee increase, with the first 30% increase already in place, Wheeler said.

"Developers have certainty of what's going to happen when, how much it's going to cost, etc.," Wheeler said. "There's certainty for the development community over the next several years. End of story, we thought."

Harper dissented at the June 18 meeting and still believes that any fee increase is a bad idea, he said.

Councilman Joe Shaw said he isn't in favor of the 100% increase either, but would rather see a 33% schedule implemented over three years instead.

Wheeler hopes the council doesn't pass the item.

"We'd like it to go away. We want to work with our City Council, but we think this [the fee increase] sends the wrong message at the wrong time," Wheeler said. "The economy certainly isn't booming."

Also at the meeting, council members will discuss a possible reduction of the use of plastic bags and may ask the city staff to schedule an ordinance and environmental impact report for public hearing regarding reusable bags.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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