Developer fees: a necessary evil

It’s a simple, irrefutable fact: With all new development come greater demands on our streets, public services and parks. And it is also beyond argument that new development simply does not pay for itself; a good deal of that tab is picked up by those already residing in a community.

This week four members of the city council voted to increase development-impact fees. In an odd twist, that approval by the slow-growth councilmembers releases as many as 20 developments—including the 1,300-unit Oak Valley project—from their temporary state of limbo created by the fact that without expensive street improvements, the developments’ impacts could not be mitigated.

The conservative councilmembers have long argued that the state, not the builders, should pay for improving state highways impacted by growth. In this case we are talking about the already woefully undersized Highway 99 and the soon to be over-burdened Highway 32. When he was on the council, current Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, maintained that argument. Now that he is working in Sacramento, he says the state will not pay for street improvements to state highways necessitated by local growth. There is even legislation on the books to enforce that stand.

So we continue to find it odd that councilmembers like Larry Wahl who so support local development don’t want local developers to pay for their impacts. Sure those impact fees get passed onto the buyer and in the end all of us through increased housing prices.

If the state is not willing to shoulder those costs, we are left with two choices: increase developer fees to pay for impacts to services and roads, or else impose a building moratorium to avoid those costly impacts.