Mostly clear

City's fees are among the area's highest

After more than a year of examination and recalculation, Petaluma is poised to significantly reduce its development fees, a move seen by some as a way to rehab the city's image as anti-business.

Four years ago, the city dramatically increased its development impact fee structure with the adoption of a new General Plan, which created some of the highest fees in the county for those wanting to build new housing or commercial buildings.

Since then, little development has occurred in Petaluma. Now city staff, Chamber of Commerce representatives and some city leaders have urged the City Council to reduce the fees to potentially capture lost opportunities.

The council informally adopted a new fee structure last month and today are expected to formally pass several new ordinances to formalize the new rules.

Currently developers pay nearly $60,000 for each single-family dwelling built, with an additional $9,000 per home for major subdivisions. That fee ranks just above Novato's $59,100 and well above Windsor's $46,900. Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park charge $38,300, and San Rafael's fee is $33,700, according to Petaluma planners.

Today's likely action will lower the fees for a single-family dwelling by about 28 percent. The new fee will be about $43,000, putting Petaluma in the middle of Sonoma County cities.

For retail buildings of 50,000 square feet or less, Petaluma now requires about $1.5 million in various impact fees, and about the same for office uses larger than 50,000 square feet.

Those fees put Petaluma at the top of what comparable cities charge, which some say create a competitive disadvantage.

Development impact fees pay for affordable housing; public art; parks and open space acquisition; the building of community centers, libraries, police and fire stations; and traffic, water and wastewater infrastructure. They are meant to offset the impacts of new residents and development on a city's services and infrastructure.

Bill Sumski, a partner in PB&J Acquisitions, whose tenants include Camelback, Athleta, Calix and other large commercial properties in Petaluma, applauded the reductions as good for business.

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