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City adjusts building and planning fees to help bring balance to budget

OCEANSIDE — City Council unanimously OK’d a motion to adjust its outdated building and planning fees on March 2, to help the city recoup costs and balance its budget.
Current building fees only allow the city to recover 68 percent of its costs in planning services, 64 percent in building services and 67 percent in engineering services. The losses put the city in a $1,171,157 annual deficit that the city general fund picks up.
George Buell, director of the Development Services Department, said he hopes a new fee calculation method will help the department “close the gap” in losses.
Fees will be stepped up gradually to recover costs. The initial increase will produce a 50 percent recovery rate. Yearly increases will follow at a 25 percent increase each year until full recovery costs are reached within three to five years.
Once sufficient fees for services are reached the rates will be reviewed and adjusted yearly.
City Manager Peter Weiss said the annual review will not necessarily mean a yearly increase. “Adjustments will not be automatic,” Weiss said. “They will be presented on an annual basis.”
Changes will also allow developers to have deposit accounts for large complex projects and provide subsidies for water heater permits, solar energy generators and wind to energy generators.
The benefit of a subsidy for water heater permits is to ensure the increased cost is not too high for compliance and there is a minimized risk of water heaters being installed incorrectly.
The plus of a subsidy for solar energy and wind to energy generators is their long-term benefit to the community.
Steve Maciej, public policy analyst for the Building Industry Association, asked for a continuance on the item so builders could have more time to understand the proposed fee changes and direct deposits for large accounts. “We’d like a continuance to work on these issues,” Maciej said.
Others objected to the Building Industry Association asking for “special treatment” after the Building Industry Association also requested the BIA Job Recovery Team meet with city staff to review the new fees.
“It’s pretty cut and dry — the increase in fees is to cover our costs,” Nadine Scott, Oceanside resident, said. “As always the BIA thinks they run our town.”
Councilmen Gary Felien and Jerry Kern supported the increase, but expressed concern that an increase in fees may cause a drop in building and noncompliance in paying fees. “Are we expecting to break even in a recession?” Felien asked. “Let’s make sure we’re not killing the goose that’s laying the golden egg.”