Redding’s Parks Draw the Short Straw After Council Considers Development Impact Fee Hikes

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Everybody loves Redding’s parks and its trail system. Charging homebuilders to come up with an extra $2,700 per house to support those popular amenities? Not so much.

With a unanimous, albeit conflicted, vote, the Redding City Council approved a slate of development impact fee increases but scuttled the biggest rate hike of the bunch—a $2,777 increase earmarked for parks—and left the rate at its current $3,996 level.

The so-called impact fees are collected from developers as part of the permitting process and they are intended to have the new homes, apartments, offices and stores pay for the services—fire protection, water, wastewater treatment, parks, streets, etc.—tied to that growth.

The council approved impact fee hikes for fire protection ($100), transportation ($132) and wastewater treatment ($70). The water impact fee, thanks to a new tiered system design to encourage conservation, went from $6,889 to $5,600 for a reduction of $1,289.

Kim Niemer, Redding’s Community Services director, said the park impact fee increase was determined in collaboration with a consultant and under the review of both a special advisory group and the Community Services Advisory Commission (CSAC).

Niemer said the proposed fee takes into consideration rising construction costs while maintaining the city’s current ratio of 7 acres of improved parklands per 1,000 residents. Redding’s parks master plan, adopted in 2004, calls for a ratio of 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.

Supporters of the new park impact fee, which would be phased in over three years to soften the blow to builders, included Terri Hosler, Shasta County Public Health director, and CSAC members Bob Brennan and John Deaton.

As a CH2M Hill employee who was returning to the United States from Japan, Deaton said he could have relocated to 200 cities but settled on Redding because of the Sacramento River Trail. Brennan, the CSAC chair, said the commission voted 5-0 to maintain Redding’s current level of parks, trails and recreational opportunities.

Councilman Patrick Jones said he disagreed with the methodology used to determine Redding’s future park needs and said the proposed park impact fee hike would only serve to force a greater number of young people to leave Redding. “We will push people farther away and decrease our quality of life,” Jones said.

Councilwoman Francie Sullivan countered that, in her opinion, the city’s parks and trails are one of Redding’s big selling points. Rate hikes are never popular, she said, “but we need the quality of life—not being the cheapest place to build in America.”

Councilman Gary Cadd, who again reiterated his concern over looming unfunded pension and health insurance costs that could exceed $300 million, said he would support a level of park service to the tune of five acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. He suggested Shasta Lake and Whiskeytown offer plenty of recreational opportunities.

Mayor Rick Bosetti, noting the city’s $12,500 impact fee waiver to stimulate construction had recently ended, questioned whether now is a good time to add another $2,777 in park impact fees.

“There’s a lot of ways to get things done. You can’t always look to increase fees,” Bosetti said.

Councilwoman Missy McArthur agreed the park impact fee hike was too high and comes at a precarious time with the local economy just showing hints of recovery. “We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot and jump them (fees) up,” she said.

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.
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