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New housing development pays its way
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

“Smart Growth” is appearing more and more in newspapers and the topic of many forums yet even with all the discussion there remains a great deal of confusion and misleading statements.  As a participant in most growth-related discussions in the region I would like to offer some observations and some clarification.

First, infill development is not necessarily Smart Growth and Greenfield Development (development on the edge of an urban area) can comply with Smart Growth principles.  In fact, based on market conditions, changing demographics and new legislation almost all Greenfield Development in the next few years, and thereafter, will be Smart Growth as it’s commonly defined.  The development patterns, proximity of transit, jobs and shopping all are changing. 

Although common sense would suggest Infill Development already has all necessary infrastructure and therefore is cheaper this is not always the case.  Frequently the very reason the parcel is still undeveloped is due to a lack of necessary infrastructure or due to the particulars of that piece of land the infrastructure required is prohibitively expensive.  Installing a water line, sewer line or storm water drainage into an already built environment can be very difficult.

Many commentators even suggest that Greenfield Development doesn’t pay its own way, but that infill development does.  The fact is fees charged to one single family home in this county are as high as $60,000, per house.  Once the house is occupied the residents pay property tax, sales tax, DMV fees, and utility taxes just like all other residents.  These taxes and fees paid by all citizens should, and this is the loaded question, should cover all maintenance costs for the roads, parks, water lines, etc.  If the taxes paid on a new home are inadequate to cover the maintenance of infrastructure for that house, how can the taxes paid on a home built 15, 30 or 40 years ago (in a Proposition 13 world) cover its costs for maintenance?  The fact is that new development areas pay more in taxes and fees than the older areas of town while both areas have similar maintenance costs.  New development subsidizes the maintenance costs for the older parts of a city.

Compounding this effect is the fact that most new development areas have special tax districts or maintenance districts so they pay an elevated amount of taxes and fees compared to the older parts of a city.

Even more important than changing the configuration of future development, to achieve a sustainable community all of us need to incorporate Smart Growth principles into our daily lives.  Combine your errands to reduce the number of miles traveled, walk or bike to work or shopping, Take transit instead of your car, carpool or telecommute.  If more of us adopt these principles we can have Smart Growth and Smart Living in a Sustainable Community.

John Beckman

Chief Executive Officer,

Building Industry Association of the Delta