Impact fees for parks bumped up

For the first time since last century, new-growth impact fees to help shoulder the cost of park land acquisition and development have been increased, though not as much as staff, an outside consultant and the council’s own Finance Committee had recommended.

Based on what is called a nexus study—determining the fair share of park costs based on the impact of new development—the recommendation was an increase from $1,429 to $2,196 for single-family residences and from $1,208 to $1,857 per unit for multifamily residences.

The council, with Mayor Maureen Kirk providing the swing vote after balking with the conservative side of the council at the recommended increases, voted instead to raise the fees to $2,064 for single-family and $1,746 for multifamily.

The study, initiated in 2000, was conducted by Economic & Planning Systems of Sacramento and used a variable in the study to which three councilmembers—Steve Bertagna, Larry Wahl and Dan Herbert—strongly objected. In its study, EPS used DeGarmo Park as its model to determine new development’s share in paying for parkland acquisition. But rather than base that amount on what CARD purchased the land for—$66,000 per acre—it used the current appraised value of $108,000 per acre.

Tim Youmanns of EPS told the council having new development base its cost share on the existing rate frees up money for the construction of parks. The city now has 457 acres of developed parks and 3,575 acres of undeveloped parks.

It plans to buy another 470 acres in park land to cover expected full population build-out of 134,000 residents, up from the current 108,920.

Councilmember Bertagna questioned whether DeGarmo Park was purchased by the Chico Area Recreation District as an “investment,” for which it is “now reaping a reward.”

Parks promoter John Merz said the question of profit was not the issue, but adopting a fee increase in a timely manner was.

“We have lost $1 [million] to $2 million in funds since this discussion began,” Merz said. “Please adopt the fees after this exhaustive effort to make them fair.”

The recommended increase would cover only about 30 percent of the total amount needed, while the remainder would be financed with a bond or by selling excess park acreage—those park sites the Finance Committee has taken off the table for future development.

Councilmember Dan Herbert said he thought adopting the new fees was premature without having the other funding source in place. Bertagna asked what would happen if “we don’t come up with the other money?”

“What we are talking about is a very basic park system,” said Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan, who also sits on the Finance Committee. He warned against putting off development fees any longer, saying to do so only increases the burden placed on existing residents.

Earlier Bertagna had argued that the impact fees on new development didn’t just affect newcomers, but rather hit those like him who are already living here whenever they purchased a new house.

In the end, an angry Councilmember Coleen Jarvis reluctantly joined Kirk, Nguyen-Tan and Scott Gruendl in voting for the compromised fees.

“I’m tired of developers not paying their share,” Jarvis said, her voice cracking. “We’ve waited six years to raise park fees.”

It wasn’t worth at this point arguing “over $132,” she said before casting her vote.

The council also voted to amend the General Plan by deleting the Holly Avenue, Rose Avenue and McManus School neighborhood parks as well as the community parks set for Eaton Road and southwest Chico.