Another building fee dispute

Local building lobbyist John Beckman sent letters to Mayor Ann Johnston last week again scrutinizing the fees charged to developers in Stockton. (Beckman prides himself as a local building fee watchdog. You’ll recall this lawsuit.)

Both letters boil down to this argument, a common refrain: Builders are paying more than their fair share in fees.

In the first letter (click here to read it), Beckman criticizes a past economic development incentive. Basically, for several years, the Community Development Department, which oversees planning and building, offered discounted building fees to projects in a special city economic development zone. (The practice ended in 2008).

The department lost about about $4.85 million in revenue during a six-year period. Beckman argues that developers outside the special zone subsidized the losses.

In the other letter, (click here to read it) contends that the Community Development Department, which oversees planning and building, should not be breaking even. The department’s major revenue source is building fees. Beckman argues that not all the work the department does is development related, however. Thus, it should not be recovering 100 percent of its expenses in building fees, or the fees are too high.

“We’re supposed to recoup all of our costs of doing business through fees,” said Mike Niblock, the department’s director. But he added that the city and Beckman’s group are splitting the cost of a fee study to determine if there needs to be any restructuring. “At the end of the (study), we should have some interpretation of what should be, in theory, developer-funded and what should be a general government type of activity,” he said. 

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