State of improvement

As development booms, city looks to build on infrastructure

New housing developments, like this one on Cinder Creek Drive off Eaton Road, help pay for improvements and equipment for roads, parks and public safety.

New housing developments, like this one on Cinder Creek Drive off Eaton Road, help pay for improvements and equipment for roads, parks and public safety.

PHOTO by Meredith j. graham

Ever wonder where the city gets the money to build parks, roads—like the Eaton Road expansion—or new sewer lines? In part, at least, that cash comes from home builders, in the form of development impact fees. And with development on the rise, the city stands to see more and more money coming in for capital projects.

“We are in a growth mode, in an upswing,” said Ruben Martinez, director of Public Works for the city. “[Development] over the past two years has really outpaced the previous four. So we can anticipate these funds, if they’re not healthy, we’ll see them become healthy.”

New housing developments seem to be popping up around the edges of town. Perhaps the most noticeable ones are along the eastern portion of Eaton Road, which was recently widened and expanded. The money to complete those road projects came from development impact fees, specifically the Street Facility Improvement Fee.

“If someone is developing a building in our city, it’s impacting our city,” Martinez said. “As they expand housing and help our city grow, these fees help us improve our infrastructure.”

The fees, which range from $10,000 to $14,000, are set aside for various purposes, Martinez said. Let’s say a builder wants to put in a new subdivision. The city would analyze the impacts of that subdivision and what sorts of infrastructure improvements it might warrant. The money, then, would be disbursed among the 13 development impact funds to be used accordingly.

Every year, the city puts together a report that breaks down exactly how much money is in each fund and what projects they financed the previous year. The most recent report, covering fiscal year 2013-14, was released last month and will be presented to the City Council at its next meeting, Jan. 20.

Martinez explained that, in addition to paying for infrastructure improvements, the fees also pay for staff time to analyze what projects are needed and how much they’ll cost. Many projects call for a match from the city because they often end up benefiting the city as a whole, not just those moving into new homes or apartments. For example, the Basic Park Facility Fee paid 96 percent of the cost to renovate Caper Acres and the Bikeway Improvement Fee paid for a new path from Little Chico Creek to East 20th Street.

In the past, the cost of some projects was partially taken care of through redevelopment funds. Since those funds are no longer available, the city is responsible for offsetting costs.

“For expenditure purposes, we need the rest of our budget to be healthy so we can have the match needed for some of these impact fees,” Martinez said. “We’re building projects now. We are using impact fees. But until revenues are healthier, we aren’t going to use them as we did in the past. We’re looking at things very closely.”

The city is in the process of updating its nexus study, which outlines all of the potential growth areas in town and lays out a framework for what improvements should be made over the coming decade.

“We try to stay slightly ahead of the growth,” Martinez said. “We’re always trying to anticipate where things are going to be moving. That’s one of the reasons the Highway 32 project remained a high priority and received funding from some of these funds—we know growth is going to impact that area. Now with the new courthouse, we might see an even bigger uptick over there.”

Future improvements, according to the current nexus study, include expanding the Highway 99/East 20th Street interchange, the creation of an additional bridge at One-Mile Recreation Area for bicycles, the construction of a new fire station and purchase of several new fire engines.

“It’s a good outlook at this point,” Martinez said. “We just have to make sure our exuberance doesn’t get away from us.”