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

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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8 Responses

  1. Avatar mike says:

    Once again councilman Jones shows that he just doesn't get it. If he would walk the river trail he would find that young people are all over it. Parks and rec are a draw as most of us already know.

    • Avatar Softflight says:

      Time to put the Halloween costume on and go by boat? Shasta County politicians are down right wing scary.

  2. Avatar Bob says:

    Jones can't walk the River Trail because it might cause him to cross the bridge he vowed to never cross. What kind of civic leader vows to never use Redding's claim to fame?

    An increase in park impact fees begs the real question: Do our parks serve the people who pay for them? Big League Dreams is falling far short of its projected income stream, and as a result we have a very big park, located on the very edge of the city, underutilized by our residents. At the same time we have a park on the east side of town that is an overgrown, unused and empty lot, paid for by the surrounding homeowners with impact fees that were spent elsewhere.

    The City Council needs to take a hard look at how the impact fees are being utilized and how the existing parks are being maintained and utilized before it can reach an intelligent decision regarding the future of our impact fees.

  3. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    Thank you, Jon, for keeping us, the general public and residents of this fair city, informed!

  4. Avatar Jason says:

    More police and less parks. Bravo Redding. Bravo.

  5. Avatar Dave K. says:

    When we moved to Redding 12 years ago, some of the major draws were the trails, city parks, and what appeared to be an increasingly progressive community. We felt a sense of optimism about the area's responsible planning for growth and economic vitality.

    However, ever since the financial crisis brought on by irresponsible growth and economic stimulation of subprime mortgage lending and dubious financial instruments, the country including Redding seems to have had a knee jerk reaction with remedies ranging from cutting taxes to borrowing from future generations to pay for economic stimulus.

    Even now, with signs of economic recovery, we have a city council voting to cut funding for plans to improve Redding's quality of life. It's been sad to see that some of the city council members have such short sighted visions for Redding's future.

  6. Avatar John says:

    I think this story shows how short sighted our council can be. If Patrick Jones refuses to use the Sundial Bridge, he is not much of a champion for our city. He should celebrate the success of The Sundial Bridge.