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Time for the Manteca City Council to step up

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POSTED May 16, 2017 12:44 a.m.

The Manteca City Council has a chance to show they mean business, right past failures, deliver on a longstanding promise to make growth pay its own way, to strengthen the city’s financial well-being, to keep the economy going by assuring infrastructure for future growth is guaranteed, to deliver on campaign promises, improve traffic, and to protect the quality of life in Manteca.
Tonight when they review the transportation fee component for the Pubic Facilities Implementation Plan and provide direction to staff they need to do three things. Tell city staff to within 45 days come back with:
uThe final fee for adoption.
uA building moratorium that will go into effect immediately if the Building Industry Association for the Delta wants time to study the fees before the council adopts them.
uA boilerplate agreement for developers seeking building permits so they can get them while the BIA further studies the fees to allow them to keep building as long as they agree to pay the new fees as outlined in tonight’s report. If the final fee that’s adopted is less, they will be refunded the money. If it is higher, they owe nothing.
This is not the city’s first rodeo with fees that took them years to develop or modify — in the case of the transportation fee 14 years — and then have the process drag on for another six months or so while a high-paid consultant and staff manage to synch their schedule. Then the BIA asks for another three months that turns into an additional six months to study the fees.
It will be another year with 400 homes built and the city losing out on $2 million.
Those who believe the BIA is a disciple of Machiavelli argue the delay — while motivated in part to get a say in making sure the fees are just and fair — is designed to stretch it out for months and sometimes a year so they can save their member builders money. The builders in turn pocket the money instead of each new home sold paying its fair share toward the infrastructure costs that Manteca is incurring so the homes can be built, sold, and occupied.
Then there are those that believe city hall is either unfocused, not efficient enough or is simply understaffed and will add costly delays to the final approval process.
By the council taking the bull by the horns tonight, they won’t have to pass the buck to blame staff or the BIA for the final delay of fees and the subsequent loss of significant money that is being “left on the table.”
And more important they, as elected officials, will be in the driver’s seat — not the builders, not the consultant, and not the city staff.
There was a time when local builders dominated the market. People like Antone Raymus, Mike Atherton, Toni Raymus, and Bill Filios looked out for the community’s best interests because this is their town and where they want to keep doing business for decades. To this day, they still look after the community.
But Manteca is now dominated by bottom line builders driven by stock prices. While they build quality homes, Manteca is just another stop for them. It doesn’t mean they are evil but they are less likely to offer things up such as bonus bucks to help the city cover its tracks for their failure to put adequate fees in place.
This is not a slam against the city. It’s simply reflecting reality. They are not as nimble or as motivated as the private sector. That doesn’t mean the city workforce doesn’t have hardworking and innovated employees. It does. It’s just the people at the top in the private sector in order to make money to cover their costs — payroll and such — have to be aggressive and innovative day in and day out. It’s not exactly the same in government where you have guaranteed revenue and rely on others to grow your bottom line.
By asking for the three items to be brought back in 45 days, if the fee isn’t ready to be adopted by then or the development community asks for a delay to double check the numbers of the city hired consultant by hiring a consultant of their own, Manteca won’t pay the price.
It is really simple.
The City Council in 45 days will adopt the fees, or they will delay them while collecting the higher fees that could be refunded partially if they are ultimately lower, or new building will stop.
The council instead of allowing themselves to be put in the role of the victim will have three options. And all three options protects the current and future residents against even wider funding shortfalls needed to cover major road an intersection work.
Manteca doesn’t have to be a patsy any longer whether it is due to an overburdened or non-concerned staff or a development community that plays the “we need more time to review the fees” card. The great thing about it is everyone looks good by agreeing to use one of the three options — the staff, the council, and developers — while at the same time protecting the interest of Manteca’s existing 77,000 residents and those that will move here in the future.
Of course the best option of all is to start collecting the higher fees in 45 days via a boilerplate agreement and refund any of the amount that is too high once the final fee is adopted without builders being on the hook if the fees are higher.
The worst option is to keep playing the game when it comes to adopting needed growth fees as it has been done for the last 20 years.

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