Potential Developer Impact Fee reduction heads to resolution
Council members Rick Wood, John Eastman and Mayor Jo Bacon were still not thoroughly convinced that Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Lehman’s call to reduce building fees would act as a catalyst for economic stimulus in Mammoth Lakes.
“What is proposed is not economic stimulus at all,” Wood said at Wednesday night’s regular Town Council meeting. The proposal asked Council to review reducing or terminating Developer Impact Fees, affordable housing mitigation fees, and planning and building permit fees for up to three years.
“We already cut fees in half and it didn’t help,” Wood continued.
Eastman saw it in a different light, “We are not in a financial position to absorb an additional $92,000 in revenue,” which is the projected revenue the Town would receive in fiscal year 2011/12 if DIF remained the same.
Mayor Bacon was willing to consider reducing DIF, but only for 12 months and only on small projects such as single-family homes. No Council members, not even Lehman, felt that reducing planning and building permit fees would be helpful, since the money would just need to be pulled from the General Fund in order to subsidize staff time that goes into this work.
Community members, especially those in the building industry showed up in force for the item.
“This is like watching our federal government,” stated contractor Kelly Duff. “Are we just going to wait for everyone to leave town?” he asked, referring to Council’s wishy-washy attitude toward the subject. “We won’t need affordable housing if no one has a job.”
“Yes, you lowered DIF, but only after you raised it 200 percent,” added local property owner John Vereuck.
Wood, however, argued that DIF was the least of the Town’s worries. “The litigation is a bigger priority than DIF,” he said. “It pales in comparison to the judgment that grows in interest by $7,000 per day and will ultimately result in significant pain to the community.”
“A contractor is less concerned about the litigation than putting food on the table,” retorted Lehman.
The issue of DIF repayment also came up at the meeting and Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw explained that since the Town was merely considering a temporary suspension of DIF and not a permanent termination of the entire program [such as the decision Mono County had made], the Town would not be required to repay DIF that had already been collected.
Brad Podosin, a homeowner currently in the middle of construction wondered how he should proceed.
“Should I stop building and wait for this to be sorted out,” he asked. “I don’t want to pay $20,000, only to find out the next week that the fees have been waived but I won’t be reimbursed.”
Ultimately, Council came to a consensus to reduce DIF, but Town Attorney Andrew Morris explained that the consensus would then need to be brought back to the Council as a resolution for it to vote on. This added to Lehman’s frustration.
“If we wait until the end of summer [to take action] we miss the point,” he said, referring to the short building season in Mammoth.
Staff agreed to bring the resolution to the Council’s Special Meeting on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. The resolution will state that the Council will defer 100% of DIF for small projects for one year with the option of extending that further if it shows impact. Planning and building permit fees, as well as affordable housing fees will remain intact.
The Council members voted 3-1 to put this language into the resolution. Eastman voted no, wanting zero reductions to any fees. Councilman Skip Harvey was not present at the meeting.
Council briefs …
Events Coalition denied funding
The Mammoth Lakes Events Coalition requested a total of $86,000 in funding (to be spread among several summer events) from the Measure U funds currently sitting in Town coffers. Council (except for Lehman), however, was uncomfortable approving the request until the Measure U Committee had determined the guidelines for awarding the money, which means that this year’s summer events will miss the Measure U funding cycle.
“I understand and respect the process, I just hope this doesn’t take the wheels off the cart,” said Events Coalition member Mark Deeds.
San Joaquin Villas connector road
Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw brought back news regarding the proposed connector road for East Bear Lake Road near San Joaquin Villas that had been highly protested by residents of SJV last month (see archived story at http://thesheetnews.com/archives/9493).
After meeting with property owners Wardlaw decided to leave the issue up to future developers.
“Basically we’ll sit down with future applicants and explain that they’ve got some circulation issues to address,” Wardlaw explained. Currently plans for future development in the area are stagnant.
Lake Mary Road Bike Path update
Public Works Director Ray Jarvis explained that the much-anticipated opening of the upper portions of the Lake Mary Road Bike Path could be expected within two to three weeks.
“The contractor is just finishing some punch list items and then he will turn the path over to the Town,” Jarvis said. “We will then continue to work with the Forest Service to complete the tunnel under the bridge at Chair 15, the connector bridge at Lower Twin Lake, the connection next to Tamarack, and bus turnouts, but the other portions of the trail will be opened.”
Town’s Senior Engineer Peter Bernasconi added that the project was on track with its original schedule. He explained that some upper portions of the trail had been blocked off this summer even though they looked complete to avoid injury claims related to construction and traffic control.
“We had two or three claims last year, so this year the contractor chose to completely block off those portions of the path so that he wouldn’t have to worry about traffic control” Bernasconi said.
Following up on the decisions it made in the interim budget approved in June, Council reviewed and approved month-to-month contracts for both Mammoth Lakes Housing and Mammoth Lakes Tourism. While the MLT contract was approved without fanfare, Mayor Pro Tem Lehman made it clear that he was not happy with the continuation of MLH. Lehman has expressed several times at Council meetings his antipathy toward the organization, claiming that there is no longer a need for it now that the housing market is correcting.
He further mocked the organization’s claim of having a wait list for residents in need of housing.
“If I used government money to open a hamburger stand next to McDonald’s and was able to charge half-price, I’d have a line out the door, too.”
Council will discuss further changes in staff workplans that affect the interim budget at its meeting on Aug. 10.