The council passed the first two measures 5-0, electing to charge costs for consultants as well as deposits up front for projects.
Council, however, was reluctant to take on the third measure at this time, which would charge 50 percent of the staff time used in meetings between developers, the city planning director, public works director and city engineer.
Developers were willing to pay for the first two provisions, but a fundamental difference remained between city staff and the developers over charging for staff time.
“Where we take exception is the staff time,” Keith Schneider of Keystone Corporation said. “Our position is that staff time is fixed overhead.”
A similar provision pulled off the table in December would’ve charged for the full cost of the staff time used in the meetings for development. Schneider said it wouldn’t be long and the charges for staff time would increase to “full charge.”
“We just pulled out of a very deep recession,” he said. “Let’s work together.”
Deputy City Attorney Doug White, who has been crafting the measures, said that if it was up to the staff the measures would be more aggressive in charging, but the city staff felt it needed to partner with developers to craft a compromise.
City Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten said the city could no longer subsidize development and the developers had to pay for their projects.
“Over the years we’ve left a lot of money on the table,” Lustgarten said. “I would support this if this is the best we can do, however, I think we can do better.”
Councilwoman Deborah Novelli said she really didn’t think charging for staff time was a good idea and that the city needed to partner with businesses.
“I would rather see a charge for fixed cost,” Novelli said.
Lustgarten asked for an analysis between charging a flat fee for different stages of development such as an environmental review document and charging for straight staff time by the quarter hour.
The measure on staff time charges is expected to return at the April 15 city council meeting.
As for deposits, the city will require a 15 percent up front deposit for all estimated processing costs before a development project that is 30,000 square feet or 10 acres in size could move forward.
The original ordinance introduced last year would’ve allowed staff to charge developers hourly rates for the staff’s time, including the city manager and department managers. It also called for a possible tiered system of deposits of up to $100,000 for larger projects, depending on the size of the project, and would eliminate application fees on the larger projects.
On Dec. 5, planning commissioners recommended changes to the original plan, which would require deposits for staff time and consultants up to $100,000, depending on the size of the project, to ensure the city would not get stuck with the consultant, legal and staff time costs if the project folds.
The changes included suggestions from the planning panel. They believe the council should consider changing the size of its application fees for projects and believe they should require a deposit for the city to hire consultants on projects larger than 20 acres or buildings larger than 50,000 square feet. The commissioners specifically recommended, however, not charging for city staff time spent on projects.
White has defended the staff fees, stating the city had specifically crafted the ordinance fee and deposit structure to be very competitive. He said the fees would be roughly half of what Tracy and Turlock charge for development — Patterson’s two main competitors for business in the area. The city’s deposit requirement would be refundable for the developer if he or she decided to pull the plug on a project.
Nick Rappley can be reached at email@example.com or 568-9975.