Because of a fee increase to finance road improvements, the total fee on new single-family homes in Ventura will be $5,245 under a plan that the Ventura City Council adopted this week.
The rates more than quadruple the "traffic-mitigation" fees that developers pay for every single-family home, condominium and apartment, and almost double the rates for commercial, retail and office space.
Before the council's unanimous vote on the measure Monday, developers had complained that the additional levy would boost housing costs and dissuade businesses from locating in Ventura. They also argued that future buyers would pay for traffic problems that do not originate solely within the city and criticized the city for failing to aggressively seek state and federal funds.
"I think new development needs to pay its fair share in mitigating its negative effect on the community but not 100% of the cost," said Paul Tryon, a local representative of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.
"Cities are looking for some form of funding, and politically, local citizens are not ready to bite the bullet," Tryon said. "So who else is left?"
Tryon said he feared that the fee increase would send a message to other cities in the county to either adopt traffic-mitigation fees or increase existing fees.
Ventura is the third city in Ventura County to adopt a traffic-mitigation fee. Its fees are the stiffest, topping $1,800 per single-family home in Thousand Oaks and $1,084 in Oxnard.
In Los Angeles County, the fee for a single-family home is $2,650.
Residents in a fourth Ventura County city--Simi Valley--plan to put an initiative on the November ballot that would make developers pay for traffic-improvement measures within a 1 1/2-mile radius of new projects.
Starting July 8, when the fees take effect, traffic-mitigation fees for every 1,000 square feet of general commercial space will jump from $2,400 to $4,130, in contrast to $2,188 per 1,000 square feet in Oxnard and $300 per 1,000 square feet in Thousand Oaks.
The rates will be reassessed and possibly reduced if county voters approve a half-cent sales tax earmarked for transportation needs, Councilman Richard Francis said.
"What I am saying with as much waffle and fudge as possible, is that we have a program that gives us a lot of flexibility, and if we can reduce the traffic-mitigation fee with a funding source elsewhere, we will give it the utmost consideration," said Francis, a member of the council's Traffic Committee.
The Ventura County Economic Development Assn. is expected to complete a feasibility study on the sales tax soon and will try to have the issue placed on the November ballot if there appears to be sufficient public support.
The tax would generate an estimated $315 million for road projects throughout the county over 15 years.
City planners estimate that Ventura will need $95 million to pay for about 22 major roadway projects to keep traffic flowing when the city has reached a recommended maximum population of 122,000 in the year 2000.