The Atwater City Council gave its approval Tuesday night to proceed with extending fee reductions to developers looking to build new homes in Atwater, but placed a limit on the number of reduced-fee permits allowed per developer.
The item passed in a 3-to-2 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Craig Mooneyham and Councilman Joe Rivero voting against it. A final vote is expected at the Dec.9 council meeting.
The fee reductions, which have been in place for the last five months, cut developer fees for single-family residential homes from $18,605 to $15,248 – a savings of $3,357. It would reduce fees by $3,000 more for those paying them upfront.
The City Council on Tuesday considered extending the program for another six months until June 2014, but Councilman Jeff Rivero said there needs to be a limit of 30 permits per developer.
“I didn’t want to put any barriers to potential builders,” Mooneyham said Wednesday in explanation of his vote. “We want to be as building-friendly as we can be, and I wanted to put as few barriers to new construction as possible.”
Councilman Joe Rivero, who also voted against the item, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Councilman Jeff Rivero said the 30 permit is intended to spur construction.
“The risk is if they pull that many permits, the building is not going to happen right away,” Rivero said. “I’m not trying to stunt growth, but we want it to happen and we want it to happen now. I think 30 permits will stimulate builders to develop now.”
Developers who want to pull more than 30 permits would be required to provide an explanation to the City Council, Rivero added.
The program has stimulated some activity among builders, according to Atwater Community Development Director Scott McBride.
The city had no new permits for for single-family residential homes in 2009, 2010 and 2011. However, there were five permits in 2012 and about seven plans submitted to the city in 2013.
“We didn’t have any permits issued before the program went into effect,” McBride said. “Since it’s been in effect, we have two builders that have submitted plans to allow them to pull permits. This is seen as another way to help influence the decision-making (of developers).”
Although the fee deferrals don’t apply to commercial development, McBride said building new homes will bring more businesses to town and have a trickle-down effect on the economy.
“We know that as new homes go up, the retail tends to follow the rooftop development,” McBride said, adding that new home developments also benefit contractors, real estate agents, and fuel providers in the area.
Atwater City Manager Frank Pietro said feedback from area developers prompted the fee reduction program.
“Some time ago, we met with developers and asked them what it would take to get them back to Atwater, and they said the fees are expensive,” Pietro said. “So we decided to go to council with it. We’re trying to get building back in the city of Atwater.”
Councilman Larry Bergman on Tuesday voted in favor of extending the fee reductions, regardless of the cap placed on the number of permits, saying that it will spark economic growth.
“I do support it because I look at it as a small reduction now, but anything we can do to stimulate to economy, we will be paid by ten-fold in the future,” Bergman said. “We’re going to get our money back in the long run.”