Tuesday, March 22, 2005

M.I. tax districts likely - Revenues would offset the cost of improvements, city services

Article Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2005

M.I. tax districts likely
Revenues would offset the cost of improvements, city services

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

For the first time in decades, families are slated to move this summer into new homes on Mare Island. With the rush of residents, city and development officials expect they will need to do plenty of work fixing up the old military base.

Who will pay for the improvements in such areas as landscaping, sewers and streets? Who will pick up the tab for law enforcement and firefighters and for building and maintaining parks?
The homeowners, apparently.

The Vallejo City Council plans to vote today on the first step in a process to create two special tax districts and borrow the cash to pay up front for those improvements. If the council OKs the procedure, a public hearing would be set April 26.
"That's all part of developing properties," Vallejo Finance Director Robert Stout said of special tax districts.

Depending on a home's size, parcel taxes could reach as much as about $1,300 a year. Residents would have to pay that in addition to a 1 percent property tax collected by the county.
With homes now selling for more than $700,000, those taxes could add up to more than $8,000 a year, not including any other fees charged by the city.
"Every little penny makes a difference," said Bobby OJha, who is buying a Mare Island home with his wife Sejal. "I'm happy overall, but not happy hearing this," OJha added.

The tax is aimed at neighborhoods including Gardner's Glen and Alden Place, where OJha hopes to live starting in June. On Monday, he said he picked out flooring for his new home.
Even if he has to pay more, he expects the value of the house to rise year after year. "They won't have a loss of customers," OJha predicted.

But for home shoppers like Susie Quach of San Francisco, the added taxes may price the home even further out of reach. She said she's looked at other areas, where similar taxes, often called Mello-Roos fees, are about half the proposed Mare Island amount. Still, Mare Island's proposed tax is small compared to the overall price, she said. "Whoever can afford an $800,000 home, they can afford the extra $100 a month," Quach said. "It's a drop in the bucket."

The special tax was designed to allow Mare Island to pay for itself and not drain the city's general fund, said Lennar spokesman Jason Keadjian. The money will go to such improvements as gas and telephone utilities, street lights and Mare Island Causeway bridge upgrades. As more homes go up on Mare Island and more people move in, the tax will be spread out among more people, Keadjian said. "It has been many years since there have been homeowners on Mare Island," Keadjian said. "We look forward to them moving in, beginning to enjoy the island, and really establishing roots and community."

Lennar envisions about 1,400 homes, including apartments, houses and townhomes for the former shipyard, once home to thousands of military personnel and their families.
About 126 homes are planned in the first batch, with nearly half of the houses spoken for, a salesperson said. Another 10 are slated for release next month.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at cdenina@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6835.

FYI ... For more information about Mare Island housing, call 558-9191 or visit www.discovermareisland.com

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