BRAWLEY – Brawley City Council voted unanimously to forego the scheduled Water and Wastewater Capacity Fees and Developmental Impact Fees for new building development at its meeting on Tuesday, April 7.
The fees would have placed a 15 percent increase on water and wastewater capacity fees and a 33 percent increase in developmental impact fees on new development.
A study done in 2011 found that Brawley had some of the lowest fees in the county and throughout most of Southern California.
Consultants were hired to come up with a schedule of fees to charge new development that would be in line with other cities in the county, yet provide for new growth that would not burden existing businesses, developers, and residents.
The 2011 schedule determined that water and wastewater capacity fees would be raised 40 percent the first year and 15 percent the following years to get to 100 percent by 2015, which would be $7,537 for residential service.
The developmental impact fees would increase 33 percent in 2011, 33 percent in 2013, and 34 percent in 2015 to get to 100 percent, which would be $12,057 for residential service and $19,522 for commercial service.
In 2012, the council voted to postpone fee increases and that no automatic increases would be implemented with council action.
Then in 2013, the council voted to increase the water and wastewater capacity fees by 15 percent and postpone the 33 percent developmental impact fees.
In 2014, the council approved the 15 percent increase in water and wastewater capacity fees and postpone the 33 percent developmental impact fees.
During public discussion, many developers commented on the fee increases. All were against any fee increases and cited the slow economy and the tight housing market.
The 33 percent developmental impact fee increase would add about $7,000 to the building permit on a single family home, which would equal a third of the permit.
“Of the 33 permits pulled in Brawley in 2014, the vast majority were pulled by Florentine Estates,” said Florentine Estates Stewart Chellen. “So far this year, 14 of the 15 permits pulled are by Florentine. We would feel any increase in fees. It’s a challenging market. It’s hard to get financing and margins are slim. These increases would be debilitating at this time. Inflation is 2 percent or less. We ask that you stick with your current rates and revisit this matter at a later time when the market is stronger.”
It was suggested that the council look to other cities to see what is driving the new projects to them and makes the other cities more desirable. According to one comment, Imperial had 140 new building permits drawn in 2014. El Centro had 45 permits, compared to Brawley’s 33 permits.
“2011 was the last time we had an increase in the developmental impact fees,” said Council Member Helen Noriega. “We have not had much new development since then.”
The council voted to forego the fees for six months.
City staff was directed to bring back other options for fee increases, including smaller increments.