The city of Healdsburg is considering an increase to their development impact fees, a one-time fee charged to a new development at the building permit stage that’s used to fund facilities — such as sewer and drainage — needed to serve the new development.

The proposed new fee for traffic facilities for single-family residential developments is currently $4,588 and the proposed new storm drain facilities fee for single-family residential developments is $5,724, according to the city’s development fees consultant firm, Willdan.

The proposed new fee for traffic facilities for commercial building development is $5,756 and the proposed new fee for storm drain facilities for commercial building development is $1,602.

Fee increase

Fee increase - These are the proposed new development impact fees for traffic and storm drain facilities. The city’s development impact fees have not been updated since 1997. 

“They have not been updated since 1997 so the city has hired consultant Willdan. Carlos Villarreal will give us the presentation of the fee study and the resulting change in fees which will be a recommendation going forward to council,” Healdsburg Public Works Director Larry Zimmer explained during a December informational public meeting about the proposed changes.

The city is also considering updating its parks fee, however, all development fee changes will have to be approved by the Healdsburg City Council before they can be implemented.

The sewer and water development impact fees will not be adjusted despite the changes to the other development fees, according to Zimmer.

Villarreal, the Willdan consultant assigned to the fee project, said the proposed fees are in a draft form and can be altered based on city and community input if needed.

“The fees are in a draft form and we can certainly make changes to them going forward if we get the feedback to do so, but that said we’ve been working with staff pretty closely and we feel like the fees are in a good enough place to present to you all,” Villarreal said.

So how does the consultant come up with the new figures for the fees?

“Our entire analysis is demonstrating the nexus of the relationship between the facilities and the development that creates demand for the facilities,” Villarreal said. “In California it is the Mitigation Fee Act that lays out the guidelines for how impact fees are to be calculated and how they are to be implemented. In terms of the calculations we have to make several findings — and our report supports these findings — to show that the new development creates the need for these facilities, that new development will benefit from the use of the fee revenue, and that the fees are proportional to the new development share study costs. We also need to document the purpose of the fee and how the city plans to use the fee revenue.”

The first step in calculating new fees is to quantify the demand for facilities by doing estimates of existing development and future growth.

Using those estimates of demand the consultants can identify the facility standards and identify new facility needs and costs and allocate a share of those facilities to accommodate growth.

“Finally, we calculate a fee schedule by allocating those costs per unit of new development, for example costs per single family and multi-family dwelling units and various non-residential building square feet. So, for the two impact fees we are updating today, storm drain facilities and traffic facilities, we have a couple of different approaches (to calculating those new fees),” Villarreal said.

He said they used existing facilities standards and existing facilities demand to work on establishing the proposed new fees.

For calculating the traffic facilities fee the city had a list of traffic facilities, roads and the like, that needed to be built for new development, so the consultant was able to calculate the fee partly based on that information as well as car trip length and amount information.

Revenue from the fees would go towards helping fund city street/traffic improvements and storm drain work/expansion.

“At the maximum justified level, a single family (home) development fee for traffic facilities would be $4,588 and for the storm drain facilities fee it would be $5,724. The city could always implement something less, but it cannot implement anything higher,” Villarreal said.

In terms of how the city council could move forward adopting the new fees, the city could adopt something less than the justified amount, but nothing more. Alternatively, the council could phase in the fee increases over several years, and or annually adjust the fees for inflation. 

“We also wanted to give you a little context for the region for how these fees compare … Some cities charge impact fees in zones. So, for example in Santa Rosa their park fee varies by which quadrant of the city you are in and some cities have a catch all impact fee like in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park, it is just a lump sum that is paid. Healdsburg’s existing fee is in the range with what your neighbors are charging, but certainly it is a wide range. In Sonoma it is about $21,000 per door and all the way up to Windsor it is about $49,000 per door,” Villarreal said. “The big note here is that the streets (traffic) fee is increasing significantly. Because it has been so long since the city has updated its fees naturally you are going to see a large increase ... but the fees fall within the range of what the comparative jurisdictions are charging.”

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