City defers Son Land Apartments fees

City postpones developer fees, citing base need for multi-family housing

City defers Son Land Apartments feesCity Manager Ron Strand stresses the local need for additional multi-family housing during Wednesday’s City Council meeting — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

In an effort to meet housing needs for an anticipated increase in China Lake’s workforce, the Ridgecrest City Council voted to defer some $980,000 in impact development fees to help expedite Metcalf Construction’s Son Land Apartments project.

The proposed 192-multi-family unit complex was approved on Oct. 23 by the Ridgecrest Planning Commission to be built in roughly 18 acres near the corner of East Bataan Avenue and South Sunland Street.

Builders are expected to accrue nearly $1 million in development impact fees over two phases of construction to meet the city’s drainage, fire, law-enforcement, traffic and parking needs. The agreement allows Metcalf Construction up to four years to pay the fees with interest (four percent per annum).

“The base last year hired 600 engineers and they’re looking at 11 percent of their workforce retiring,” said Strand. “Staff was tasked with working with the developers to bring more multi-family housing to the area.”

He added that many of the retirees are expected to stay, meaning the city is not anticipating an influx of empty homes for future hires. He said the deferred fees lower the front-end costs of development, making projects more desirable for investors.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mower wanted clarification on how the city would guarantee payment in the future. He added the city “got screwed” by previous developers when they agreed to pay based on profits that they ultimately failed to make.

Strand said the city would have a lien on the property to secure the investment.

“And if they don’t build, then there’s no need for impact fees anyway,” he said. “The base needs housing. Let’s find ways of getting the development moving.”

City Attorney Lloyd Pilchin added that deferring impact fees was compliant with the city’s municipal code.

Councilmember Lindsey Stephens had no objections to the project, but she was concerned about how high the cities fees were, namely more than $400,000 in drainage fees.

“It’s actually not [high] and should probably be raised,” said Strand. He said the city’s drainage plan “hasn’t been touched” in years and is likely out of date.

Mayor Peggy Breeden questioned how the city would deal with deferred development fees in the future.

“When the next developer comes in and says ‘I want to defer my impact fees,’ do we have criteria to determine that?’” she asked. She said she had no problem proceeding with this particular item as long as the fees were secured by a lien on the property.

Strand said deferring fees would have to be handled on a case-by-case basis and that if a developer had no perceived issues with their investors or funding, the city would probably not grant a deferral. But he continued to cite the importance of an immediate housing need.

“If we have a specific public need, where in this case we need to address our number-one employer’s need, we will ask council for permission to defer (fees),” he said. “If we don’t do this, there’s a strong chance this development doesn’t happen and we don’t get the fees anyway. We may then have an issue that effects the mission of the base.”

Council approved a similar deferral for Red Rock Villa Apartments last month. For more Planning Commission and City Council information, including future agendas and meeting dates, visit ridgecrest-ca.gov.

Story First Published: 2018-11-09