Lighting District formally approved

Council considers reassessing development procedures, consultant use

Lighting District formally approvedBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

After last month’s robust discussion on the city’s landscaping and lighting fees for new developments, the Landscaping and Lighting District for Tract 6908 – a development on the southwest corner of Downs Street and Drummond Avenue – was formally approved by the Ridgecrest City Council on Wednesday.

Local builder Chuck Roulund said that he was O.K. with voting “yes” on the district formation and that he wanted the city to recapture costs to maintain the landscaping and lighting. But Roulund said he had “zero confidence” in the firm that established the assessment fee.

“You guys saw the report. When we look at those numbers, they just aren’t accurate,” said Roulund, owner of IWV Construction.

At last month’s council meeting, he called the fees a “money grab.” Roulund said that the consultants had the tendency to arbitrarily adjust figures for landscaping, administrative, lighting and other costs until the assessment came out the desired amount – roughly $150 per benefit unit.

He compared the latest assessment district to another one of his recent developments, pointing out wildly varying cost breakdowns, despite relatively similar makeups. He suggested more oversight not only in the assessment process, but in making sure the city is keeping up with the maintenance that it is charging for.

Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens said she was also “very disappointed” in consulting firm Wildan Engineering. Stephens agreed that Wildan appeared to bring the assessment up to a desired amount rather than evaluate what the genuine landscaping and lighting costs would be. She said things were inappropriately included in the initial report, and the developer had to pay more money to have it fixed.

“The costs we’re paying for these reports is exorbitant,” said Stephens. “He paid $10,000 for that report. He could have powered those lights for eight years with that amount.

“It seems like we’re using [Wildan] for everything and not always getting the quality we’re expecting.”

She also questioned whether districts should even be required for smaller developments. She said the Walmart development was “beautiful” when it was finished, but trees have since blown over and some of the landscaping has fallen into disarray.

“We can do better,” she said.

“We are in the process of trying to audit this and make sure that it’s fair for those that are paying the money,” said City Manager Ron Strand. He said the city could bring the topic to the council’s Infrastructure Committee. “Maybe some oversight would help.”

Story First Published: 2019-08-09