Manteca taxpayers have been picking up the $270,000 annual tab for long range planning documents and periodic updating mandated by the state.
If the documents aren’t in place and fail to meet state standards Sacramento bureaucrats have legal justification to pull the plug on growth in the city.
The $270,000 annual tab related to the general plan that is used as the blueprint for growth up until now has been taken from the general fund. That means $270,000 less for day-to-fay city needs. The amount in question is enough, as an example, to cover the salary and benefits for two police officers.
John Beckman of the Building Industry Association of Delta that represents home builders told the Manteca City Council that he believed the move to be illegal and hinted that legal action might follow if the elected leaders proceeded with making builders pay for the cost of updating the general plan as required every 10 years.
Beckman argued it was unfair that builders had to pay for long range building costs saying the community as a whole benefits from it. That’s not the way the council saw it.
The council voted infamously — with Vince Hernandez absent —to impose a $0.172 cent per square foot fee on all new construction to pay for long range planning. In doing so builders will now pay 100 percent of the cost associated with putting those document together that are needed for them to basically build projects so they can make money. That will free up $270,000 in the budget on an annual basis for use for various pressing municipal needs.
The long range planning fee was part of a battery of fees adopted Tuesday by the City Council to make sure growth pays 100 percent of the cost of staff time required to process their projects.
An exhaustive examination of costs and building fees conducted by a consultant with expertise in cost recovery and legal issues associated with it, determined 60 percent of the cost of permanent staff in city departments that handle development can be attributed to growth. As such, the council action will mean fees will be cranked up to reflect full cost recovery for growth costs as well as established a reserve equal to 12 months. That means during building slowdowns staff will still be in place to do development community related work. The remaining 40 percent of identified costs of running the departments that deal with growth will still come from the general fund and fees charged for other work such as processing permits for everything from replacement water heaters to new solar panels for existing homes and businesses.
Beckman said the BIA didn’t disagree with the adoption of growth recovery fees for other development related work, just the general plan.
The fees will allow the city to hire five more planning and development related positions to reduce the time it takes to process projects submitted by builders. The time it takes to process projects and permits in Manteca has been a concern of builders as delays cost them money.
The city will revisit the fees during the annual budget process to make sure they are still adequately recovering costs.
The report the council adopted included a comparison of how the previous and new fees Manteca is charging for various planning and engineering work stacks up against Elk Grove, Stockton, Merced, Modesto and Tracy.
One example involving city staff costs for processing a 3,000-square-foot home on an 8,000-square-foot lot for planning and construction shows that before Tuesday Manteca charged the least at roughly $1,000 less than Tracy and nearly $4,000 less than Merced. The new cost recovery fees brings Manteca up to almost exactly what Tracy charges meaning Manteca is still the lowest among the five cities.
The fees are separate from mitigation fees that growth is charged for its legally fair share of amenities such as major streets, parks, fire facilities and other items. Those fees are also being reviewed.