County raises development fees

With little discussion and no opposition, the Butte County Board of Supervisors at its Nov. 12 meeting increased development fees for the Chico Urban Area. The increase came at a request by the city of Chico, where officials are concerned that lower fees in the county have a tendency to lure home builders and their subdivisions outside city limits, which fuels leapfrog development.

Specifically, the fees are aimed at the North Chico Specific Plan area, the orchard and sparely populated acreage northwest of Chico that is generally seen as the next phase of large-scale growth for the city.

As new neighborhoods pop up, such facilities as drainage, streets and parks that serve the new residents are needed. If fees don’t cover the costs, taxpayers, via local-government general funds, are left holding the bill. On average, the fees mean a $300 increase per living unit.

The ordinances the board passed are set to be placed on the consent agenda for the Dec. 10 board meeting, where they will be adopted. They will be subject to automatic adjustments each year based on cost-of-living increases.

Mary Cahill, director of the Chico Area Recreation District, told the board that CARD does not currently collect fees from the North Chico Specific Plan area but added that there is the potential for $2.5 million to be collected for parks from that area.

“We support the collection of fees that are not currently being collected,” Cahill told the board.

CARD, she said, would like to play a role in determining how and where park fees are collected.

After the meeting Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi suggested that leapfrog development had not really materialized just outside the Chico city limits because the county’s development process is slower, more arduous and ultimately more expensive than is Chico’s.

As for the lack of developer protest, Yamaguchi said, “This [fee increase] is being mandated by the state, and the developers know they have got to deal with it.”

And Supervisor Mary Anne Houx wondered aloud, “What is Jim Mann doing these days, anyway?” referring to the director of the local chapter of the Building Industry Association.

Mann’s influence in local politics was dealt a serious blow by the Nov. 5 Chico City Council elections, in which the developer-friendly council majority was broken after nearly eight years in power.