Nearly a week after city staff met with developers, and nearly two weeks after the Patterson Planning Commission discussed a proposed ordinance to change the way developers are charged by the city, the Patterson City Council decided to table the item for further study until the regular City Council meeting Feb. 4 at the regular Patterson City Council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17.
“We look at staff time as a fixed cost and not needing reimbursement,” developer Keith Schneider of Keystone Corporation said.
Landowner and developer Ken Buehner agreed.
“We feel staff time is fixed overhead (for the city),” he said.
At least one councilwoman seemed to agree with the developers.
“I’m not sure I’m in favor of ‘double-dipping,’” Councilwoman Deborah Novelli said. Double dipping is considered charging twice for staff time from two different pools of revenue.
“I see a nightmare in accounting,” she said, stating it was tough to keep track of staff time on individual projects. “I also see it as a possible point of dissention between developers and staff.”
Specifically, the ordinance would allow 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.
Deputy City Attorney Doug White 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. The city would be required to close out the account and pay all bills in 45 days before returning the remainder of the deposit.
Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten said she agreed with the fee and deposit structure, calling the decision “growing pains.”
White, who hosted the prior meeting with developers along with City Manager Rod Butler and City Planner Joel Andrews, said he would continue to meet with developers and keep the lines of communication open, noting that developers had been willing to accept some provisions of the measure while rejecting others.
• Nick Rappley is the city government and public safety reporter for the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at 209-568-9975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.