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Builders want to get more & pay less

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POSTED March 20, 2014 1:21 a.m.

Manteca home builders want the city to speed up processing development plans but apparently they don’t want to pay for it.

Actually, it appears that they want an additional discount as well on fees the City of Manteca charges in a bid to partially offset the costs of processing development plans.

But the request made by Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley Executive Officer John Beckman on behalf of home builders fell on deaf ears Tuesday night.

The Manteca City Council unanimously adopted a staff recommendation to drop a discount given to builders submitting multiple entitlement requests for one project  that was put in place during the depth of the recession in a bid to keep home builders afloat and provide construction jobs. 

That discount represents $127,000 in lost revenue during the past eight months alone. That money could have been used to offset staff costs or to hire more staff to process subdivision maps, environmental reports, and such. The money generated by eliminating the additional discount will be used to finance the hiring of an additional planner to help keep projects moving through the approval process.

That additional discount meant that during the recession the stressed general fund had less money to devote to other needs such as police and fire services. The amount  the city was giving the development community in extra fee reductions would have been enough to hire at least one additional police officer on an  ongoing basis.

Beckman contended increased building activity would generate more than  enough money for hiring more staff without abolishing the discount that he inferred was a dangerous precedent.

Staff noted that without the discount developers were only being charged 40 percent of the actual cost of the work that city workers do to process development related project plans.

Beckman countered that the BIA had an issue with a fee matrix conducted in 2010 that established the actual cost of processing projects based on city staff time.

He also wanted the city to provide guarantees that projects would be processed faster in exchange for removing the additional discount.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin said the city couldn’t make such a promise due to state mandates — that ironically the development community lobbied to get put in place — that requires certain development applications such as use permits and site reviews to be processed within 30 days of being received. If not, the applications are automatically approved even if they don’t comply with city rules.

Community Development Director Frederic Clark explained that any application that falls under the state mandated 30-day review process goes to the head of the queue and bumps other applications such as subdivision maps and annexation requests.

Budget cutbacks reduced the number of Manteca planners from a pre-recession high of 10 down to 4.5 planners today.

Manteca built more homes for three consecutive years during the recession than the rest of San Joaquin  County and Stanislaus County combined. The city has seen a significant uptick in development requests during the past year.

Mayor Willie Weatherford expressed hope that the additional position will help ease “the bottleneck” for development projects.

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