Paying for our parks

Finally, after nears of intentional neglect, the Chico City Council has a chance to pass a park development fee schedule that reflects reality. The matter has been continued to next month, and we urge the council to approve it when it comes up for a vote.

For the past decade the building industry has successfully lobbied the City Council to keep fees artificially low—and a couple of times even reduce them. As a result the city ended up with acres of unimproved sites sitting next to new subdivisions but no way to fund their development into neighborhood or community parks.

This has created a pattern of empty, overgrown lots that were intended to serve as places for adults and children to enjoy near their homes. The increases, based on the recommendation of an independent consultant, will belatedly place the cost of developing parks, or at least 66 percent of it, on the correct population—new residents who’ve created the need for more parks. Some have argued that it not necessarily new arrivals who are buying Chico’s newly constructed houses. True, but in the absence of a better alternative, tapping new construction as the main source of revenue to pay for park development is the fairest way to go.

It’s too bad we had to wait so long and lose all that money and all that time while our existing parks were overused. The city must still find a revenue stream to maintain the park system, but raising impact fees to develop new parks is good first step.