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Developer fees increase

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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New developments outside Lincoln’s current city limits will be subjected to a fee of approximately $5,500 to build Placer Parkway, a road that will connect Highway 65 to Highway 99 south of Lincoln. The Lincoln City Council voted May 12 to adopt the fees, thus joining Roseville, Rocklin and Placer County, which had previously adopted similar fees for the regional infrastructure project. The council voted 4-1 in favor of the bill, with Councilman Paul Joiner being the only “nay” vote. “The parkway is meant to relieve strain on the state highway system,” said Steve Palmer, interim city engineer, at the meting. The total cost of the project, which will be constructed in phases, is in the neighborhood of $730 million, according to the agenda packet. A start date for construction has not yet been set. Placer Parkway will intersect Highway 65 between Sunset Boulevard and Twelve Bridges Drive with an interchange, not a stoplight, according to Councilman Tom Cosgrove. The fee will not apply to existing developments, or development currently within city limits, Cosgrove told the News Messenger Friday. “Existing residents shouldn’t bear the financial burden of new development,” Cosgrove said. The project has been in the works for at least five years, Cosgrove said, and is being constructed in a way similar to the Lincoln Highway 65 bypass. Dennis Rogers, representing the North State Building Industry Association, asked the council not to reject the fee, but to put it on hiatus. “We understand there needs to be some participation,” Rogers said. “Our contention is not necessarily the idea of a regional parkway…our contention is that the costs are too high in development today.” The new fee will bring the fees imposed on a new residential unit (and its industrial and commercial equivalents) to about $50,000, said Mayor Spencer Short. “It’s a substantial amount of money,” Short said, adding that he voted for the fee because “we want to make sure we meet all of our obligations in the General Plan, including traffic mitigation.” The amount of the fee, Cosgrove said, is actually less than what the analysis done by the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency showed as Lincoln’s share. Included in Cosgrove’s motion to pass the bill was a requirement that Lincoln take another look at the fees charged for new development. “Several jurisdictions have lowered their fees as a result of similar revisions,” Cosgrove said. “We should review all of our fees to make sure they’re appropriate.” Another stipulation in Cosgrove’s motion to adopt the fee was that City Manager Jim Estep meet with his counterparts in the other jurisdictions and discuss the possibility of suspending the fee until a future date. If it is determined that the project isn’t feasible, then the fees would be returned to the jurisdictions from which they were collected, said Celia McAdam, executive director of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency. Joiner said his vote against the fee was because he wanted to reassess the city’s fees on new development before passing a new fee. “I don’t like the idea of entering into an agreement with the thought that we can change it down the road if we don’t like it,” Joiner said Monday. Short said he agreed with Joiner on principle, but said that it is unlikely any new development will come in in the next year, which Estep said is a reasonable timeframe to reevaluate the city’s current fees. In addition to that, Joiner said there are too many unanswered questions right now – including what will happen to the money collected in the unlikely even that the project is never constructed. “You get a different answer depending on who you ask,” Joiner said. Another concern Joiner raised is that, with the recent housing market crash, there is the possibility that the fee increase could prolong the problem. On the other hand, he said he is concerned that if the parkway is not built, then traffic won’t be mitigated, and that would bring its own set of problems. Going ahead now, Joiner said, is premature. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.