Council OKs hike in traffic impact fees |

Council OKs hike in traffic impact fees

Traffic impact fees for Grass Valley construction projects will increase dramatically beginning on Aug. 1 after a 4-1 vote by the City Council on Tuesday night.

The vote raises traffic fees from $900 to $4,723 for a single-family house. Commercial projects would see their fees increase to $9,871 per 1,000 square feet for retail businesses and $5,361 per 1,000 square feet for offices.

City officials said traffic fees for commercial projects could be reduced after the Nevada County Transportation Committee sets it traffic impact fees later this year.

“The fees are tough to swallow because they’re high,” City Administrator Dan Holler said. “But the existing fees are hardly worth collecting.”

The council also approved a 3 percent administrative fee to process the applications, although it could be waived for Nevada County businesses that choose to expand or build new projects.

Mayor Mark Johnson, Vice Mayor Lisa Swarthout, Chauncey Poston and Jan Arbuckle voted for the increase. Dan Miller opposed it.

“I don’t see where this will benefit anyone except the city in the long run,” Miller said before the vote. “I don’t have a good feeling about this at all.”

Barbara Bashall of the Nevada County Contractors Association said the group supports the fee hike for new homes, but opposes what she called a steep increase in commercial fees that would discourage future projects.

“The association supports the collection of mitigation fees and it is important to build roads and make improvements. But these fees could adversely affect the ability of these projects to be built and be viable,” said Bashall, adding that new projects bring jobs and generate sales tax for the city.

City Administrator Dan Holler said the fees have been too low in the past and are now calculated to meet the city’s future infrastructure needs.

Poston reaffirmed that concern at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“No one likes fees,” he said. “But we are behind the eight ball on the collection of fees.”

The city hopes to collect $43 million over the next 22 years, or to 2030, in traffic impact fees. Overall, the city has $77 million in capital improvement projects on the board.

Bashall said earlier Tuesday that traffic fees for commercial business will quickly climb into the tens of thousands of dollars for any substantial project under this proposal. For example, she said a proposed 45,000-square-foot office building would face $241,242 in traffic impact fees alone.

The council, however, did approve a payment plan to help commercial builders pay traffic impact fees. The proposal allows the city to waive the 3 percent administrative fee, approve a five-year payment plan or allow some fees to be paid later, Public Works Director Tim Kiser said during his presentation Tuesday night.

Johnson said the payment plan was a good way to help builders pay the traffic impact fees, adding “that we need to collect the money.”

The council also received a summary report and saw a power-point presentation on a proposed land-use initiative that could be on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The measure would require a public vote on any changes to the land-use element of the city’s 2020 General Plan. It would also extend the life of the land-use element to 2038.

In the summary report, city staff said the initiative would essentially make it impossible for the city to meet any goals in the nine other elements of the General Plan and potentially cost the city millions of dollars in future revenue.

The council directed city staff to do a more detailed report on the potential consequences of the measure.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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