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Traffic impact mitigation fee cuts due

By December 21, 2011

Traffic Impact Mitigation Fees could drop 14.7 percent overall, according to figures discussed Monday by El Dorado County Director of Transportation Jim Ware.

That won endorsement from the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.

The total reduction would be $138.6 million compared to the 2008 total traffic improvement program of $942.8 million. The 2010 adopted program figure was $995 million. Though the latter figure would drop $191.5 million, cost increases add up to $52.9 million since the TIM fees were set in 2008 and have remained unchanged. The difference is $138.6 million. The new total for 2012 is $804.3 million.

The $52.9 million cost increase since 2008 is based on using construction cost estimates published in the Engineering News Review, which has so far been less than figures published by Caltrans. A graph of the two sources shows Caltrans’ graph line looping over the ENR line like a large hat from 2003 to 2009.

The county Department of Transportation divides the county up into eight TIM fee zones, with Zone 8 being El Dorado Hills.

The reduction versus 2008 TIM fees would be 14.1 percent in zones 1 through 7 and 13.3 percent in Zone 8. Highway 50 TIM fees would be reduced 18.1 percent.

The planned reductions won praise from developer representative Mike McDougal, who said the reduction will help Carson Creek development take off.

“What we’re seeing is an uptick in activity” with communities that have reduced their fees, said John Costa of the North State Building Industry Association.

Developer Norm Brown also praised the TIM fee reductions, but asked the board to change the requirement to pay for and install water and sewer hookups at the final map stage. Instead of carrying “dry lots” at a cost of $50,000 each, he asked that the meters be installed when a building permit is issued.

“We’re working on it,” said Supervisor John Knight.

Art Marinaccio suggested development agreements as “a way to address needs and reduce costs.”

“I don’t think any of us would have expected land prices to plunge as much as they have,” Knight said.

The substantially lower land prices have reduced the cost to the county to acquire rights of way.

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted  its “intent” to lower TIM fees as proposed by Ware.

The six-point motion, which included five sub-points under the first item, included lower TIM fees in El Dorado Hills’ Zone 8 for “age-restricted” home developments. It also extended that category to the other community regions of Cameron Park-Shingle Springs, Diamond Springs-El Dorado and the unincorporated Placerville area as long as these areas have sewer service.

The TIM fees come from new construction.

The latest 10-year residential permit forecast by DOT shows a total of 2,628 building permits over that decade.

Ware predicted “continuing weakness in the housing market. It won’t recover until 2014.”

His forecasts have been very close so far, with 68 total permits in 2010-11 and close to the predicted 67 for 2011-2012.

Though Supervisor Jack Sweeney wanted a 20-year buildout to use for calculating transportation capital expenditures, Ware said, “If we have 10 years of housing growth, we’ll mitigate it.”

The board unanimously approved his building permit forecast.

As part of its earlier six-point motion the board called for a traffic model update that will likely lead to further cost reductions in Traffic Impact Mitigation fees and subsequent development costs.

The firm doing the traffic model update is Kimley-Horn and Associates. Jim Brunello of the Economic Development Advisory Committee praised Kimly-Horn as a nationally recognized traffic modeling consultant. He also noted that Kimly-Horn has already been working on a voluntarily basis for EDAC and contributed $80,000 worth of consulting for the voluntary group. EDAC has been working with the county Department of Development Services.

Kimley-Horn would not just to macro-modeling based on the county’s Geographical Information System, but would recommend software and set up a system for the county staff to do its own traffic modeling after vendor training on the software.

Michael Schmitt of Kimly-Horn said the model would focus on 17 major roadways connecting to Highway 50 and that 25 percent of the traffic comes from outside of the community regions.

“It’s a living model. It shouldn’t be updated every 10 years,” Schmitt said, indicating more frequent updating is needed.

In answer to a question from Sweeney about specific development proposals being able to use the macro information in a more micro detail, Schmitt said, “We can get some turn-lane information.”

DOT contracted with Kimly-Horn and Associates in October. KMA assessed the  existing traffic model and found it did not use GIS information, a much more accurate method of determining the amount of housing and housing types feeding traffic into the arterial roads.

KMA also analyzed the traffic modeling done by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and found it only modeled 14 of the 17 arterials. The SACOG model “is as much larger scaled model that only has 126 Traffic Analysis Zones, whereas El Dorado County has 934 TAZs, according to a report by DOT engineer Steve Kooyman.

The board agreed to move ahead with the traffic modeling update and develop the scope of work for the traffic model while also working on a programmatic environmental impact report for a “targeted” General Plan update.

“One year — we think we can do it,” Brunello said.

“At the suggestion of Sweeney, the “programmatic work plan” will be “delivered under direction of the CAO (county administrative officer).”

Sweeney suggested bringing it back to the board Jan. 23 or 24 and possibly as a consent calendar item.

Michael Raffety


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