Healdsburg lowers connection fees for water, sewer service

Building a new home, hotel, or restaurant in Healdsburg isn't a cheap proposition, but developers are about to get a significant break when it comes to hooking up to water and sewer.

The City Council last week approved a new way of calculating costs for water and wastewater service that reduces the cost for a new single-family home by 31 percent and as much as 78 percent for a new restaurant.

Healdsburg has some of the highest connection fees in Sonoma County and this should help take the sting out of some of the development fees.

"It puts us back in a position where we can attract business and homes," said Councilman Gary Plass.

"It's definitely good news. The costs, fees, are always something that gets in the way of moving forward on projects," said Carla Howell, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. "People always squawked about how much higher it was in Healdsburg, compared to somewhere else."

The City Council last summer hired a consultant, The Reed Group, to review Healdsburg's water and sewer "capacity" fees, which were last updated in 2005.

The study came at the same time redevelopment programs were eliminated by the state, doing away with a source of subsidies to new or expanding businesses that helped offset the connection fees.

Consultants in essence recommended a new formula that includes only the costs of existing city facilities and excludes the costs of future or planned facilities.

Currently, water and wastewater capacity charges are based on the estimated costs of planned projects at the time the charges were developed.

It's a complex formula, as reflected in the comment by Bob Reed in his 34-page report to the city:

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