The following unedited open letter is from Wildomar resident John Lloyd, an advocate for the city's parks. The issue of development impact fees was on the Oct. 9 city council agenda, but was tabled until the Nov. 13 public meeting.
The citizens of the City of Wildomar made a strong statement last November when they overwhelmingly supported having parks in Wildomar, to the point that they were willing to pass a new tax to support parks in Wildomar. That vote showed a strong level of recognition towards the need for parks in Wildomar. Unfortunately, that desire for the community to have good parks and park programs may soon become impossible.
Wildomar is reviewing its Development Impact Fees (DIF), which is what defines the fee charged to a developer, in order to support infrastructure in Wildomar during growth. DIF fees are not new to cities. DIF fees are what cover the cost of additional law enforcement, fire protection, library’s, etc.. For this discussion it’s to provide “Parks”, but the same reasoning should apply to all of the DIF fees.
We have two newer cities close by, Murrieta and Temecula. These two cities have only been cities for less than 20-25 years. They are both alongside the 15 Fwy and are in the same valley as Wildomar. They also started from ground zero on infrastructure.
These cities have recently gone through their main development phase and understand what is needed to develop into a strong community. To provide sufficient parks for its community, Murrieta charges $3,828 in DIF fees for Parkland Facilities and Temecula charges $3,085 for Park and Rec improvements. In the current proposal for Wildomar’s DIF fees we will charge $418.50.
These are two cities that had to ‘Grow up” in today’s world. Their city council has a local knowledge base that has many years of experience in what it actually costs to build a city, as well as what happens when you don’t charge appropriate fees for development impacts. We should use their learned wisdom here in Wildomar.
The current “Park to People” ratios were defined many years ago and are accepted throughout the State of California as: 3 to 5 acres of parks per 1000 population. Currently Wildomar has .44 acres per thousand, making us well below the low end of the standard.
Last November the city staff presented a study explaining what DIF fees are, what drives the cost of those fees and what the fee levels need to be to support Wildomar for future growth. The city staff hired a company that is considered an expert in identifying future costs and breaking those costs down into necessary fees to charge developers to mitigate for the impacts of increased population in our city.
The council reviewed those fees with the community and local developers and were told by the developers that they needed to reduce those charges. They were told if the city did not reduce the proposed DIF fees it would severely slow down development of Wildomar.
The proposed “Park Fee” from the report is listed as $2,325 per single family dwelling. Their expected total need of funds, for parks at build out, was listed as $12,836,325. Wildomar expects to grow by an additional 25,000 in population at build out. This means Wildomar would need to build between 75 and 125 acres of parks to mitigate for that growth.
In the latest proposal to City Council, after reducing the DIF fees to meet the request of the developers, the current amount listed for Parks is $418.50, this equals only 18% of what our study showed is needed for parks. I have been unable to find another city in Southern California that shows this level of disregard for its parks. The city of Vista charges $6,500 in DIF fees for parks and even Lake Elsinore, with a large state park deeded over to it, and being on the high side of the 3-5 acres per thousand standard, still charges four times what is now being proposed for Wildomar.
The latest proposal is roughly one eighth of what is charged by both Murrieta and Temecula and is virtually insignificant in being able to actually support building parks during population growth. The needs of the community must have more weight with the City Council than the requests of the BIA (Building Industry Association - Definition from their web site: A trade association that lobbies for the contractors and land developers of the area.)
The city staff hired top level professionals to inform us what the correct DIF fees should be. Let’s not ignore that report and the wisdom it provided. If by our charging the correct DIF fees Wildomar’s growth is slowed for a time, then so be it. I believe everyone would much rather grow Wildomar correctly than grow it quickly.
Creating a legacy of poor infrastructure that leads to blight should not be the goal of any community leader. This city only has one shot at this. If we lean on the side of putting off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, we will lose our chance to make Wildomar the “Great Little City” it should be. Over two thirds of the community has spoken and I can only hope the City Council is listening. Please don’t sell Wildomar short. If the right fees work in Murrieta and Temecula, they will work in Wildomar too.
I urge everyone to either attend the next City Council meeting on November 13th at 6:30 pm or send an e-mail to the City Manager (email@example.com) and state your position on this extremely important issue.