Fees hiked for road repairs | TheUnion.com

Fees hiked for road repairs

Despite a prolonged economic slump, county supervisors approved a three- to eight-fold increase in traffic mitigation fees this week for all new residential development to help pay for road improvements during the next 22 years.

Starting Sept. 6, traffic mitigation fees will jump to a flat rate of $5,761 above existing fees that haven’t changed since 2003.

Builders need to pay their “fair share” and increasing fees now will help pay for 15 road improvement projects totaling $285 million by 2030, according to county public works officials.

Contractors will have to pass on the fees to buyers, limiting the pool of blue-collar workers who can afford a home, said Greg Gallup, of Gallup Construction.

“For a 3,000-square-foot house that’s (almost) $2 per square foot. Somebody who’s making a living and raising a family, $2 could put them over the top,” Gallup said.

Supervisor Sue Horne voted no for the bulk of the increase geared toward regional transportation projects, though she voted yes for the smaller portion for local roadwork. The rest of the board approved all the increases.

“It was very ill-timed considering the economy is in the tank,” Horne said, agreeing young families trying to buy a home will be most hurt by the increase.

Though supporting the concept of a regional plan drafted by the Nevada County Transportation, Commission Horne believes fee increases should be put on hold until the economy rebounds.

Postponing fee increases would delay road improvements needed to ease congestion while construction costs continue to rise, said Doug Farrell, director of the county’s public works department. Delaying the roadwork also could slow growth, Farrell said.

“If these projects aren’t constructed, they could delay development,” he said.

Since 2003, when existing fees were implemented, the Dorsey Drive Interchange was estimated to cost $12.5 million, but the price tag has risen to $34 million, Farrell said.

Fee differences will be different for various regions of the county now that a flat rate has been applied to everyone.

Banner Mountain single family residences pay $706 in traffic mitigation fees now and will pay an additional $5,055 with the new $5,761 rate.

Oil prices and worldwide competition for materials has driven up inflation in recent years, said Rod McConnell, transportation planner for the county. Since 2003, the price of asphalt has risen 90 percent, McConnell said.

“Prior to 2003, inflation wasn’t nearly as vigorous as it is now,” Farrell said.

With the adoption of the long-term fee schedule, the county will re-evaluate fees and adjust them as needed for inflation each year.

By 2030, traffic is projected to grow by 92,898 trips or 33 percent from what was recorded in 2006, according to the transportation commission’s report.

A majority of drivers come from neighborhoods with two-thirds of trips depart from residences while the remaining one-third come from businesses, Farrell said.

Traffic mitigation fees are based on the number of trips made by either residential or non-residential drivers.

Prior to the construction of a new building, developers face $20,000 for building permits and traffic, school, fire and recreation mitigation fees for a typical 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot home, estimated Barbara Bashall, executive director of the Nevada County Contractors Association.

Increasing fees is unpopular but won’t hamper a rebound in a struggling construction industry, Bashall said.

“It’s not going to slow things further,” she said, calling the fee increases an investment that will keep the economy vibrant.

“If you don’t collect enough money, you can’t do improvements and people start getting irritable because there is an increase in traffic,” Bashall said.

Bashall opposed traffic mitigation fee increases in Grass Valley two months ago because she said they were inequitable to office and industrial developers. She said the county’s fees are more balanced.

Other mitigation fees have been increasing as well. Last week, area school boards approved raising mitigation fees for schools.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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