Revisiting the lessons of Village I is timely, because Modesto is about to launch a discussion on the fees it charges developers.
The City Council recently appointed a citizen panel that will examine those fees, then recommend whether they should be raised, lowered or kept as is.
Developers pay the fees to cover the costs of laying roads, sewers, parks, sidewalks and streetlights that are needed when new building happens.
Set the fees too high, some say, and developers will bypass Modesto for cities with cheaper charges. Make them too low and Modesto won't collect enough money to pay for public improvements.
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The 13-member panel, known as the comprehensive fee task force, will start meeting within the next severalweeks. The group will kick off its discussion with a crash course in municipal finance, said Community and Economic Development Director Brent Sinclair. "We need to establish a base of how all those fees relate or don't relate to each other," he said.
From there, the panel will examine each fee and the formulas used to calculate them. Sinclair anticipates it will take about nine months to complete the discussion.
Councilman Garrad Marsh said the panel should proceed carefully to avoid a repeat of Village I mistakes, when the city lowered its development fees only to fall behind on paying for public improvements.
He suggested that the panel create a mechanism to review fees every year.
"If there's a legitimate cause to lower the fees, then we should lower them; but we need to also review them every year and make sure they're at the right rate to get all the work done," Marsh said. "There needs to be diligence on the part of staff."