Other Voices: ‘The rest of the story’ on traffic | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: ‘The rest of the story’ on traffic

Have you read the headlines? Low mitigation fees and special deals mean higher taxes!

Carnage on Hwy 49 – Let’s make a deal!

These headlines jump out at you in a flier called “CCAT’S Traffic Watch,” which is being circulated by “Citizens Concerned about Traffic” (CCAT). CCAT states the organization was “Founded in 2004 to preserve our community and way of life.” I think the mission statement is admirable and I certainly agree with it. However, I believe the flier contains mostly hype and misinformation and leaves out “the rest of the story.”

The flier attempts to lead the reader into believing that special deals are being cut with builders and developers and that the representative of the Nevada County Contractors’ Association (me) has purposely slowed down the process. This is absolutely not true. It goes even further to suggest that because of them (CCAT), the city is moving a fee increase along. This is also not true.

In fact, the following is an excerpt from an article that I recently wrote and is reflective of the NCCA’s position:

“The NCCA has always advocated that new homes and new business projects pay their ‘fair share.’ The NCCA was instrumental in 2001 in having a Regional Mitigation Road Fee adopted. It is important that new construction pay for its impact and that the agencies that collect these fees expend them on the projects they were collected for, so we can maintain the quality of services for the entire community. It is also equally important that Mitigation Fees are assessed fairly because excessive fees will hinder economic development.”

The flier is full of innuendos of wrongdoing and payoffs. It states, “Currently, at our City Hall, the amount of traffic mitigation funds is grossly inadequate.” While this statement is partially true, it leaves out important information. Mitigation fees are spread out over a 20-year life span; therefore, all the fees will not be collected until the 20th year. It then goes on to say, “If mitigation fees to developers are not adequate to pay for improvements, who do you think will pay?” And their conclusion: “All citizens will through new and increased taxes!” However, the writer overlooks a minor detail – it takes a vote of the people to adopt a new or increased tax, and you cannot make development pay for existing deficiencies. Obviously, the person writing the article for CCAT does not know what he is talking about or does not know about the law that requires developers to pay for their fair share but cannot make them pay for existing deficiencies.

Two other headlines state, “There are special deals” and “Let’s make a deal.”

The writer implies in those articles that Big 1 Appliance did not pay for its traffic impacts and that it received a special deal. It is true that Big I Appliance was conditioned to build the turn lane on Sutton Way, and the store will be reimbursed 100 percent to build it from the Mitigation Fee Account. What the writer fails to disclose in his article is that Big 1 Appliance paid $71,645.92 toward its fair share of mitigation fees.

CCAT is not doing the community any favor by circulating misinformation and hype. The group offers no real solutions and is promoting the “if you don’t build it, they won’t come” attitude. The outcome of that attitude will be that the community gets saddled with some real problems. Everyone who lives here has the same desire to protect our beautiful community and the quality of life we enjoy. However, quality of life also includes good schools, good health-care facilities, good shopping and a thriving business community.

We need to work together to find solutions. We won’t get there with scare tactics. Please, give us only the facts so we can make sound decisions!

Brief background on mitigation fees

In 1978, the voters approved Proposition 13 to reduce property taxes. Although Proposition 13 benefited homeowners, there is no doubt that it has also negatively impacted the amount of property tax dollars available for government projects, including road maintenance and new roads. Policy decisions have been made – and continue to be made – at the state and local level that have diverted funds targeted for road improvements to other uses. Roads have simply been a low priority. After many years, most communities are now feeling the impacts of those decisions. The state has continued to cut many revenue sources to counties and cities, which has resulted in a growing gap of unfunded road maintenance and improvements for existing roads.

In 1989, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1600, which is now referred to as the Mitigation Fee Act. The purpose of mitigation fees is to provide for adequate public facilities to mitigate the impacts of new development. The Fee Act requires a nexus (or a direct tie/link) between the fee imposed and the new improvements generating the need for the fee. This means new development is not responsible for paying for existing road deficiencies. In fact, AB 1600 does not allow mitigation funds to be collected for road maintenance, only for capital improvements. The law requires that a local agency must show the three elements of the rational nexus – benefit, impact and proportionality – before adopting a new Development Impact Fee.

Barbara Bashall is the executive director of the Nevada County Contractors’ Association.

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