San Benito County's general plan preliminary draft is anticipated to be released in January with a final price tag of $1.2 million. With the three-year process nearly complete, supervisors are considering a way to collect some of the cost through impact fees.
In November, they asked planning staff officials to come up with a cost recovery plan that would offset additional, unforeseen costs to the current general plan – along with serving as a funding source for future updates.
Byron Turner, assistant director of planning and building, presented some findings Dec. 4 with the supervisors to review a more specific plan this year. Turner and staff members reviewed general plan maintenance fees from other communities to come up with possible methodologies to collect the fees.
“The percentage varies wildly, whether there is another funding source available,” Turner said at the meeting.
Levying in other communities varies from a flat fee per building permit – which ranged from $75 to $200 – to surcharges on building permits. The surcharge formula can be a percentage based on square footage, valuation or the cost of the building permit.
As officials noted, other methodologies to collect the fee include a fee upon a dollar value or the building permit evaluation, a flat rate fee per planning application or a dollar value on each dwelling based on square footage of new construction.
As with other impact fees, the development must benefit from the fee being levied and it has to be based on the estimated costs to prepare the necessary general plan updates.
Though supervisors directed staff to review a fee that would apply to only large developments, planning staff found some difficulty in designing an ordinance with such requirements. The first is determining what would constitute a large development. The second is that without collecting fees from all developments, the fee would have to be higher on those developments that are not exempt.
“If 100 percent cost recovery is the goal, it should apply to all buildings, not just homes,” Turner said. “If you want a smaller amount of time for cost recovery, the fee will have to be higher. To ensure fairness, consultants should probably be brought in.”
Supervisor Anthony Botelho asked if San Benito County staff members could develop an ordinance based on a study from another community rather than hiring a consultant.
Turner said the staff started reviewing the potential fee with plans to develop it in house, but he added, “As it got more complicated, we want to be fair.”
“I cringe at adding fees, but we need some funding stream to meet the legal obligations,” Botelho said. “I'd like to see us setting in a reasonable flat rate or percentage.”
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said he felt comfortable asking developers to pay for the nearly completed plan.
“We are doing this plan so they will be able to build,” he said. “I feel justified having them pay for it as opposed to asking them to pay for a future plan.”
He said he'd like to see a fee for residential, commercial and industrial developments.
Turner said supervisors would need to consider what types of exemptions to make for the fees.
The supervisors directed Turner to see if there was a study from another jurisdiction that might work to develop the fee in San Benito to avoid paying for a consultant, with a request for staff members to come back for further discussion at a future meeting.
General Plan by the numbers
• $815,630 approved in February 2009
• $1,130,657 amended in April 2010 to include cost of public participation, advisory committee and EIR components
• $67,000 approved in Dec. 2012 to cover public comment responses or other additional costs with a signed contract that there will be no additional charges to the county
• $1,197,657 total cost of general plan update