SANTA ROSA -- The Planning and Permitting Study Group formed by the Mayor’s Economic Development Task Force has identified issues and practices in the city of Santa Rosa’s Community Development Department that it believes should be re-examined in an effort to streamline application and permitting processes to support Santa Rosa’s business stimulus efforts.
The key focus is to review service fees that make up the total cost-recovery system, and whether or not to keep or abandon this method, as well as to better understand how other jurisdictions charge fees. In addition, they will focus on fees charged to small businesses and the impact fees developers are charged.
The group suggested that case study comparisons of fees in cities with economic stimulus programs should be performed to measure efficiencies associated with desk audits, to create metrics as well as to track and compare results.
Municipalities that have taken recovery actions within the last three years include Grass Valley, American Canyon, Fresno, Redding, Manteca, Elk Grove, Stockton, Emeryville as well as Shasta County.
The Study Group proposed accelerating CDD efficiency with same day plan checks, making planning and permitting departments economic drivers, establishing a review process to revisit the emerging issues list, and creating an advisory committee to re-validate and determine possible fee suspensions, deferrals or updates that could be considered.
The committee found that assessing fees based on higher property values three to five years ago no longer pencil’s out, and called for a fee comparison among other cities with an eye toward lowering and/or updating fees to reflect current property values.
Other suggestions involve the possibility of incentivizing small business applicants with 25 employees or less, lowering fees by categories (permit types) or imposing no fees on a case-by-case basis.
The group outlined its preliminary findings and suggestions on July 28 as targets for future consideration, while also addressing a variety of other concerns.
“This is only the beginning. Our Task Force is just starting to get into the solutions phase. More research and fact-finding meetings will be held with civil engineers, those involved in processing service and impact fees as well as other stakeholders to delve deeper into the issues,” said Jake Ours, Vice Mayor of Santa Rosa.
Members of the study group include Rob Cantu, with Western Builders and chair of the Study Group; Paul Schwartz, with Cassidy Turley BT Commercial; Doug Hilberman, Axia Architects; Tony Battaglia, Archumana Architects; Greg Hurd, BKF Carlenzoli; Lisa Wittke Schaffner, Sonoma County Alliance, and Joe Ripple, with Schellenger Brothers Development.
On the issue of building fees, Mr. Cantu noted they “cannot be prohibitive and must be made affordable so they are not impediments to building projects or virtually eliminate the return on investment for developers. If there is quicker turnaround on permits, new job creation will result in more tax revenue. Such reduced fees would open the front of the hopper.”
“The CDD has already targeted many of these areas of study and has implemented some change, but it’s time to bring industry and city staff together and go all the way. If we don’t there will be little to talk about – it will be too late,” Mr. Cantu said.